The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Persecute \Per"se*cute\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Persecuted; p.
pr. & vb. n. Persecuting.] [F. pers['e]cueter, L. persequi,
persecutus, to pursue, prosecute; per + sequi to follow,
pursue. See Per-, and Second.]
1. To pursue in a manner to injure, grieve, or afflict; to
beset with cruelty or malignity; to harass; especially, to
afflict, harass, punish, or put to death, for adherence to
a particular religious creed or mode of worship.
Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
--Matt. v. 44.
2. To harass with importunity; to pursue with persistent
solicitations; to annoy. --Johnson.
Syn: To oppress; harass; distress; worry; annoy.