(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional and human rights law, said today’s action by an Iranian court convicting and sentencing American Pastor Saeed Abedini for his Christian faith is a travesty that sadly underscores Iran’s brazen violation of international law and a tragic reminder that Iran is one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom.
In an unexpected development in Iran today and 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.
“This is a real travesty – a mockery of justice,” said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, who represents Pastor Saeed’s wife and children living in the U.S. “From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. 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.”
Pastor Saeed and his attorney were permitted to attend just one day of his trial, which began January 21st. They were barred from attending and participating in further proceedings. During his imprisonment, Pastor Saeed has been beaten and tortured raising serious concerns about his medical condition.
Pastor Saeed’s conviction and sentence in the Iranian Revolutionary Court had to be approved at the very top – The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had to sign off.
The ACLJ represents Pastor Saeed’s wife and children who reside in the U.S.
This statement from Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, after learning about today’s court action:
“The promise of his release was a lie,” said Naghmeh. “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.”
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow added:
“Here’s the troubling reality: we have 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. A harsh sentence in a notorious prison – likely facing life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime - simply because of his Christian faith.”
The ACLJ has been working with the U.S. Government and at the United Nations to generate support for Pastor Saeed. Both the White House and the U.S. State Department have condemned Iran and called for Pastor Saeed’s release.
Pastor Saeed, 32, was granted U.S. citizenship in 2010 through marriage to his American wife. He and his wife, Naghmeh, have two children, a 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. In 2008, Pastor Saeed became an ordained minister with the American Evangelistic Association. Naghmeh and the children reside in the western U.S. The Iranian government does not recognize his U.S. citizenship and for 3 years he travelled freely back and forth from Iran until this summer when he was put under house arrest. He was imprisoned in September.
The ACLJ is providing legal representation to his U.S.-based family and working with various contacts in Iran on his case. Further, the ACLJ launched an international campaign urging the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Congress to get involved and demand Pastor Saeed's release. The ACLJ also has heard from nearly 250,000 Americans demanding Pastor Saeed’s release.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has affiliated offices in Israel, Russia, Kenya, France, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.