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Iran begins trial for U.S. pastor held since September
Saeed Abedini
January 21st, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Iran begins trial for U.S. pastor held since September

On Monday, American Saeed Abedini appeared in an Iranian court. The Christian pastor gave the judge a written statement and was questioned by prosecutors and his defense lawyer, whom he only met Monday.

But apparently that is not the end of the legal proceedings, according to his wife and lawyers who are assisting her with the situation.

Naghmeh Abedini said "a few" laymen with the Christian church in Iran told her husband's attorney that they have been called to testify in the case, in which the pastor is being tried for his religious beliefs. The lawyer indicated that neither he nor the pastor were expecting to be allowed to attend Tuesday's hearing.

Tiffany Barrans, the legal director for the American Center for Law and Justice, said the church leaders in Iran were faced with a dilemma: They could avoid being witnesses, or they could testify in court and possibly face similar charges.

"They are all very fearful to have to show up," she said on a conference call with Nahgmeh Abedini and Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the nonprofit organization, which provides legal counsel and litigates cases involving freedom and liberty issues around the world.

Nahgmeh Abedini said that when she last spoke with her husband on January 9, he was resigned to a fate of remaining in prison.

"He sounded OK," she said. "He sounded tired. He said he had come to a realization that they would not be releasing him anytime soon. Up until Christmas he had had hope."

Saeed Abedini has been arrested nearly 10 times in the past by the Iranian authorities, his wife said. The last time he had been held was in 2009, when he agreed to stop supporting home churches.

He had taken nine trips to Iran, where he was born and where his parents live, since then.

His wife said he felt like he was OK to go back repeatedly because he had no dealings with the authorities since he promised to no longer work with Christian home services.

Once he even went with his wife and two children. He and Naghmeh are both converts to Christianity from Islam, and they received threats during the most recent family visit so she took the children home. He came back to their home in Boise, Idaho, later.

Last summer, the pastor was on a bus that was crossing from Turkey into Iran. Immigration officials took away his passport and he was later put on house arrest. In September he was jailed, in the notorious Evin prison, while he awaited trial.

On Monday, the Iranian state-run news agency INSA reported he would soon be released on bail, but his wife said the court had rejected the family's attempt to pay.

She and her lawyers said the bail was $116,000, and the court rejected it on a technicality.

"His family (in Iran) has been running in circles to pay his bail and each time the court has rejected them and ask for more documents," she said. "For us its like they are crying wolf."

Her attorneys said the Iranian court is trying to gain positive worldwide media attention.

"The judge in this case has to portray it as if this is going to be a fair trial," Barrans said.

INSA also reported the trial was finished in one session, something Naghmeh Abedini doesn't believe.

Barrans said her team notified U.S. officials of the latest developments, but the State Department failed to respond.

Last week a spokeswoman for the department told reporters: "We understand that a hearing will be held soon, and we call on Iranian officials to respect Iran's own laws and provide Mr. Abedini access to an attorney."

Naghmeh Abedini said she remained hopeful even though her husband's lawyer told her to be prepared for a conviction and sentence next week.

"I have a lot of peace and faith that it's all going to work out in its time," she said.

But she added that she sleeps only two hours a day, and her mind is constantly running through all the possibilities of what could happen to her husband.

She believes he has been tortured in prison, and it's possible that the judge could sentence her husband to death for a capital crime.

She also worried about her children, ages 4 and 6, who haven't seen their father in eight months. Dad was the one who gave them their baths at night, who read to them and sang them to sleep.

Now, they tell their mother they have a hard time remembering his face, so they put DVDs in and watch him as he played with them as babies.

"Every day is like 100 years to them," she said. "They are in great emotional pain."

She has only spoken to their father a few times since he was imprisoned. He is allowed to make short calls to his parents every Wednesday.

Naghmeh sounds strained. She comes back several times to her wish.

"There should be an outcry from the world that his religious freedom ... is being taken from him. And they should free him right now based on their own laws that (they) have signed on to and agreed to."

Saeed Abedini isn't the only American being held at Evin prison. Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine and decorated Iraq war veteran, is imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges.

Within weeks of setting foot in Iran for the first time in August 2011 to visit his grandmother, he was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned.

Months later he appeared on Iranian TV, showcased as a confessed CIA operative. The State Department has denied Hekmati was spying for the U.S. government and called the case a gross miscarriage of justice. A court convicted Hekmati of espionage, sentencing him to death, but he has since been granted a retrial.

CNN's Eric Ferrell contributed to this report.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. Boise Divorce Lawyer

    Hi my friend! I want to say that this article is awesome, great written and include almost all important infos. I would like to peer more posts like this .

    May 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  2. Doug Lynn

    I feel sorry the Pastor in Iran. However, it is not the taxpayers problem. He chose to evangelize in country where it is illegal. It is time for Christians to pray and God to respond, not taxpayers to bail him out. I am very, very disappointed in the family that thinks otherwise.

    January 26, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Hilda Ward

      He was not evangelizing. He was arrested in 2005 for that so he knew he could not do that. He went there to visit relatives and hoped to open an orphanage. DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE what the Iranian government says. Do you also feel that they have the right to torture a person because of his faith? I cannot fathom why cnn tucks this story in a religious section. This is an American citizen being held and tortured by the Iranian gov. and our president should be trying to help him.

      March 15, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  3. Reality

    One more time, the safe, easy and peaceful solution:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi--–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
    be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..
    ========================================================================================

    January 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Leavy Wells

    Religion is man-made: You are correct!
    The bible on the other hand was inspired by God and God breathed (2 Timothy 3: 16)
    As You can see not many people are going to accept Jesus (The Bible: John 1: 14) (John 3: 19)
    Im not here to argue about it but im posting this to give you the truth which many people will not receive because they do not know the truth. Why? Because they haven`t accept the only Truth! (John 14: 6)
    Im not speaking for your benefits but I speak to please God and I will only speak his word, so its everyone (including me) choice to choose either the world (Which is Death) or God (Which is of Light), Life or Death?
    Choose Wisely.
    May Gods grace and Mercy be with us all including Saeed Abedini And his family!
    Your in my prayers!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Ben

      Your beliefs are as pathetic as your grammar, and they are founded in fictions.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      @Leavy....

      grow up, goon

      January 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jesus: on the grift

      The Bible was written by a grifter. Look at all the ways it has to deceive Christians away from applying critical thought. Anyone who questions or denies the bible is doomed, tricked by the devil. Anyone who laughs at you for being an idiot who believes the bible proves the Bible is true, for god says there would be people who laugh at you.

      Christianity and the Bible are filled with those kind of grifter tactics. It's a good indication that it is false – a real god wouldn't act like a con man.

      January 23, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Science

      @LW
      Do you watch TV ? Have a remote to change channels ? What digit do you use for the remote control ?
      Your answer for the remote question answers it all.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • sam stone

      the bible was inspired by god because the bible said it was?

      great logic you got there, sparky

      January 24, 2013 at 7:32 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.