FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
American citizen and Iranian pastor, Saeed Abedini, has been in prison for over 1,000 days now for his faith in Jesus and activities as a Christian
As the United States and other Western countries are negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program, the continued confinement of Saeed, along with three other Americans, raises serious concerns about the trustworthiness of Iran’s negotiations.
Saeed Abedini was imprisoned on September 26, 2012. On the morning of January 27, 2013, Pastor Saeed stood before Judge Pir-Abassi in Tehran to receive his verdict from a show trial. He was convicted of “undermining national security” for his work among house churches in Iran from 2000 to 2005 “Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day (January 21) to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini’s trial,” State Department representative Darby Holladay reported shortly after the trial.
Naghmeh Abedini, Saeed’s wife, appeared before the House of Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this month and pleaded for a greater effort to be made on behalf of her husband. That same day, House Resolution 233, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI), was passed with a vote of 391-0. The resolution calls for the immediate release of imprisoned U.S. citizens and the disclosure of any information regarding U.S. citizens that have disappeared within the borders of Iran.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has been advocating on behalf of Saeed for some time and recently collected over 1 million unique signatures for Saeed in a social media campaign entitled #SaveSaeed. The global campaign on behalf of Pastor Saeed has brought his case before Congress, the White House, the United Nations and other world leaders.
Saeed’s father was able to visit his son in prison on Wednesday, June 24 and carried out a message of hope. Having just spent his 1,000th day in prison, Saeed gave his father a message to share. “He wanted us to know that for 1000 days he has experienced utter darkness and has died, yet for 1,001, he has been resurrected with Christ,” Naghmeh said. “For 1,001 days he has learned to forgive over and over and over again. That for 1001 days he has chosen Christ over what they have tried to force on him and he has stood on His faith in Jesus Christ despite the pressures, tortures and threats.”
Saeed has faced intense abuse these past 1,001 days. “He has been tortured, especially the first few months he was beaten badly when internal bleeding started,” Naghmeh testified at the hearing on June 2nd. Time is of the essence, despite Saeed’s resolute endurance. Saeed has experienced both physical and psychological abuse in prison. He has been put in and out of solitary confinement repeatedly and has suffered beatings at the hands of prison guards and even fellow inmates for his faith.
The release of Saeed and other U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran is of upmost importance as the June 30th deadline for Iranian nuclear deal approaches. If President Rouhani wishes to have constructive interaction with the international community, he must take into account the demands of Resolution 233 and the unjust imprisonment of American citizens for nothing more than exercising their fundamental rights. International pressure should continue and expand on behalf of these U.S. citizens.
Organizations and governments have advocated on behalf of Pastor Saeed, though more remains to be done. Secretary of State John Kerry first called for his release on March 22, 2013 and again on July 28, 2014 in addition to citing Saeed’s case in the U.S. State Department’s most recent report on international religious freedom. President Obama mentioned the case in his first phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani but additional steps have not been taken, despite international pressure.
ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, Todd Daniels, said, “The continued imprisonment of Saeed Abedini on charges of threatening Iran’s national security for meeting together with those who share his faith demonstrates the fragility of the Iranian regimes hold on society and the lack of a true commitment to basic rights and freedoms. The ability to hold a religious belief, to meet together with others who share that belief, and to live publicly in accordance with it is among the most fundamental of freedoms. Iran continues to regularly violate that, not only in the case of Saeed Abedini but for the dozens of other Iranian Christians who are also suffering in Iran’s prisons. As a citizen of the United States, President Obama and his administration should exert the utmost effort to see him returned to his family. As a country that claims to promote religious freedom as a core value of our foreign policy, the United States must boldly condemn those who would imprison its citizens simply for their religious beliefs.”
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East