Our worst fears have been realized. In Tehran on an empty promise that American Pastor Saeed Abedini might be released, his lawyer came to court. The lawyer had no formal notice that his presence was required, only the casual request less than 24 hours before from a court administrator to a family friend that the lawyer should come to the court because it was releasing Pastor Saeed. But this was all a lie.
Upon arriving at the court, Dr. Naser Sarbazi, Pastor Saeed’s lawyer, saw his client. He knew he had been deceived.
Without family present, Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Iranian Revolutionary Court – known as the “hanging judge” – verbally convicted and sentenced Pastor Saeed to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. The evidence provided was of Pastor Saeed’s Christian activities primarily during the early 2000s, when under President Khatami house churches were not perceived as a threat to Iran. Despite Iranian law requiring a written verdict, none was given.
Here’s the troubling reality: A U.S. citizen, who has been beaten and tortured since his imprisonment last fall, is now facing eight years in Evin Prison, one of the most brutal prisons in Iran.
We represent Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and her two children who live in the U.S. Upon hearing this injustice, Naghmeh, said: “The promise of his release was a lie. We should not trust the empty words or promises put out by the Iranian government. These false hopes amount to psychological torture. You don’t want to trust them, but they build a glimmer of hope before the crushing blow. 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.”
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.
Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights. We call on the citizens of the world to rise up in protest. We call on governments around the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed. As his wife has pleaded, starting with our own government, every effort must be pursued. We are calling on the State Department and the White House, which have both called for Pastor Saeed’s release, to engage further.
This is a real travesty. An U.S. citizen faces a lengthy prison term for simply because of his Christian faith. Pastor Saeed now faces eight years in a harsh prison – likely facing life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime.
Please continue to pray for Pastor Saeed and his family. We will continue to utilize all of our efforts to see that justice is served and Pastor Saeed is safely in the arms of his loving wife and two children back home in the United States.
Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice.
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