Pastor Saeed’s Trial: Bail Rejected - Will Iran Uphold Its Obligations to Protect Religious Liberty?
Today Pastor Saeed Abedini appeared before Judge Pir-Abassi in Branch 26 of the Iranian Revolutionary Courts. The prosecutor charged Pastor Saeed with attempting to undermine the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches. The court presented evidence that dated back to the year 2000, the year Pastor Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity. The regime alleged that Pastor Saeed intentionally sought to sway the minds of Iranian youth by turning the youth toward Christianity and against Islam, the official religion of Iran.
Pastor Saeed is represented by Dr. Naser Sarbazi, a Muslim lawyer in Iran who is dedicated to preserving human rights and upholding the right for all individuals to practice their faith freely. Less than 24 hours before the trial, Dr. Sarbazi was permitted to meet with Pastor Saeed to prepare a defense. Dr. Sarbazi presented a strong defense as to why Pastor Saeed’s Christian activities were not a threat to the national security of Iran. He presented arguments as to how Pastor Saeed’s Christian activities were motivated solely by his faith and without a political agenda. Pastor Saeed’s father was the only family member allowed in the courtroom.
Dr. Sarbazi told Pastor Saeed’s family that today was his only day to present a defense on Saeed’s behalf before the court. However, it is known that several lay church leaders have been summoned to give testimony before the court tomorrow. It is unclear at this point whether the court will continue to question witnesses in the case tomorrow or whether today’s hearing represents the complete trial.
Although we are confident that Dr. Sarbazi presented a strong defense, we recognize that Pastor Saeed’s fate still lies in the hands of the Iranian regime, a regime whose actions remain unpredictable. It is still unclear from the trial what sentence, whether a lengthy prison term or even death, the regime seeks to impose on Pastor Saeed. Judge Pir-Abassi could render his verdict as early as next week, which means there is still time for the leaders of the free world to speak out loudly on Pastor Saeed’s behalf. We know from past cases that strong international support is crucial, but the responsibility to support a U.S. citizen starts with our own government. While we patiently await Pastor Saeed’s verdict there is still time for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to stand publicly with this U.S. citizen.
Do your part today and sign our petition urging the U.S. government to stand publicly with Pastor Saeed.
Update: The AP is reporting that Pastor Saeed has been released or will be released in a matter of days after posting bail. The fact is that bail has been presented to the Iranian authorities on numerous occasions, including today after the trial, but has not been accepted.
This from Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh:
This is all a lie by the Iranian media. This has been a repeated promise by the Iranian regime since Saeed was first thrown in prison on September 26, 2012. We have presented bail. After the Judge told Saeed’s lawyer that bail was back on the table, the family in Tehran ran around in circles today to make sure Saeed was let out on bail. But again the bail officer rejected bail. This is a game to silence the international media. The lawyer in Iran was asked to make a statement, but that was before the family’s attempts today and before the regime again rejected bail. Dr. Sarbazi told me today that the regime is not dropping the charges against Saeed – this is the only act that would allow Saeed to leave Iran and return to the U.S.
Pastor Saeed remains in prison. He has not been released on bail. And Iranian authorities continue to refuse to accept the bail presented to secure his release. We cannot trust the Iranian regime's reported promise to release him and return him to his family until Pastor Saeed is safely back in the U.S.