An American pastor from Idaho has been sentenced to eight years in one of Iran’s harshest prisons for preaching Christianity in Iranian homes, it was revealed today.
Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who was born in Iran, has been held since September and charged with ‘threatening the national security of Iran.
The 32-year-old father of two says he was in the country only to establish and orphanage and was not preaching Christianity.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which is working with Mr Abedini’s family to free him from Iranian custody, says the pastor led house churches in the Islamic nation in the early 2000s, when the state did not consider such activities a threat.
‘With today’s development I am devastated for my husband and my family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil,’ Mr Abedini’s devastated wife Naghmeh, said.
Mr Abedini is being held in Evin Prison in Tehran, the infamous gulag that houses most of the country’s political prisoners.
The ACLJ, a legal advocacy group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, reports that Revolutionary Court Judge Pir-Abassi convicted and sentenced Mr Abedini after a hastily-called court hearing.
The group says that the ruling violated Iran’s judicial rules and was motivated purely by politics.
‘We know that with the Iranian Revolutionary Court, Pastor Saeed’s conviction and sentence had to be approved at the very top – The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had to sign off,’ Jordan Sekulow, the director of international operations, wrote.
The ACLJ says that Mr Abedini was beaten and tortured while in Iranian custody.
He and his attorney were allowed to attend just one day of his trial, which began on January 21.
Iranian officials had previously said they were planning to release the pastor, so the news that he was sentenced to eight years in a harsh prison came as a shock to his family and supporters.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and the State Department have both called for Mr Abedini’s release, thought the Iranian government has clearly ignored the request.
Have you heard their calls for his release? Because when a movie trailer about Islam was made, all levels of Obama’s administration were in the media condemning it. Quite a contrast.