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Another Christian Pastor Jailed in Iran Because of His Faith
Another Christian Pastor Jailed in Iran Because of His Faith - This one an American Citizen
In Iran, another Christian pastor has been arrested because of his religious beliefs. This time the pastor is an American citizen, who was in Iran visiting family. Human rights and constitutional law firm, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), warns now that Saeed Abedini has been indicted by an Iranian court, he could face a lengthy prison term or possibly even the death penalty.
The ACLJ announced today it is providing legal representation to Saeed's US-based family - and is also launching an international campaign calling on the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Congress to demand the pastor's release.
"What makes this case particularly disturbing is that Pastor Saeed, who was born and raised in Iran, has been granted U.S. citizenship. He's been in prison for nearly three months simply because of his Christian faith," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ. "Now he's been indicted by an Iranian court and this development could potentially result in a death sentence."
"In addition to our legal work, it's important to get this story out. We need to generate global support for Pastor Saeed and to engage the U.N. and the U.S. government in securing his release," said Sekulow.
Pastor Saeed, 32, was granted US citizenship in 2010 through marriage to his American wife, Naghmeh. The couple has two children, a 6 year-old daughter and 4 year-old son. Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity in his twenties and in 2008 he became an ordained minister with the American Evangelistic Association. The family lives in the western US.
But the Iranian government does not recognize his US citizenship and in September, while visiting family in Iran, Saeed was arrested and placed in Iran's notoriously brutal Evin Prison. This week an Iranian court indicted him on several charges, the specifics of which have not been made public. In fact, the government has refused to notify Saeed, his attorney or his family about what is included in the charges.
In a recent letter to his family from prison, Saeed said: "These walls have created more fervor for me to love others through sharing the Gospel, but more than that, the walls have deepened my love for my Savior. I feel the prayers of all who are praying for me. I hope to one day meet each one of them face to face and embrace them in my arms."
Since converting to Christianity, Saeed has been active in proclaiming his faith and sharing his religious beliefs. Saeed has been harassed by the Iranian government for more than a decade. He had faced numerous confrontations with the Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Intelligence police over the years and had been detained in the past. But his current imprisonment puts Saeed in grave danger. He had been held in solitary confinement before a recent move to a general prison ward. ACLJ sources confirm Saeed has been the victim of both physical and emotional abuse, and there is concern for his immediate state of health
"Our concern is growing with each passing day," Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, told the ACLJ. "This is a very, very difficult time for our family. What is happening is hard to understand. During this season of our Savior's birth, our family, including our two young children, cannot help but feel a huge gap in our midst. Memories of years past tear at our hearts as we desperately pray for Saeed to come home."
Just three months ago, the Iranian government, facing significant international pressure, released Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. The Christian pastor had spent nearly three years in prison because of his faith.
The ACLJ launched a global online campaign to demand Nadarkhan's freedom. More than three million people agreed to send one tweet a day as part of the ACLJ's "Tweet for Youcef" campaign. The Iranian attorney who fought for Nadarkhani's release has now been imprisoned for representing him. Through Twitter, the ACLJ continues to call attention to his plight and demand his release as well.
In Saeed's case, the ACLJ is providing legal representation to his US-based family and working with various contacts in Iran on his case. The ACLJ is also launching an international campaign urging the United Nations, the US State Department and Congress to demand Saeed's release.
"We know that the Iranian government is sensitive to international pressure. We have seen that in the Pastor Youcef case," said Sekulow. "Now, we have an Iranian-born Christian, who holds a US passport, being punished for his beliefs. Pastor Saeed's imprisonment and indictment violates international human rights and religious freedom laws. That's why it is so critical to challenge this imprisonment both legally and in the court of public opinion around the world."
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