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Iran sentences U.S. pastor to 8 years in prison, group says
Saeed Abedini is shown here with his 4-year-old son.
January 27th, 2013
12:02 PM ET

Iran sentences U.S. pastor to 8 years in prison, group says

By the CNN staff

(CNN) - An Iranian judge has sentenced an American Christian pastor to eight years in prison after he was tried for his religious beliefs, a U.S.-based religious group said Sunday.

Saeed Abedini was swiftly sentenced by a member of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Court, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, an organization founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson.

CNN was not immediately able to confirm what went on in the court proceedings.

Abedini, who was born in Iran and now lives in Idaho, has been jailed in Iran since September, the group said.

"This is a real travesty - a mockery of justice," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, in a statement. "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," added Sekulow, who represents Abedini's wife and children, who are in the U.S. "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."

Abedini's trial began Monday when he and his attorney appeared in a Revolutionary Guard Court to address charges of attempting to undermine the Iranian government, the center said. His attorney apparently was shut out of some proceedings.

"We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him," U.S. State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said in written statement.

The group contends that charges stem from Abedini's conversion to Christianity from Islam 13 years ago and his activities with home churches in Iran.

On Monday, the pastor gave the judge a written statement and was questioned by prosecutors and his defense lawyer, whom he met for the first time that day.

The judge in the case has faced sanctions by the European Union "because of his harsh sentences for those on trial for exercising a fundamental human right," the center said.

Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor's wife, said last week that a few laymen with the Christian church in Iran told her husband's attorney that they had been called to testify in the case.

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

The Iranian state-run news agency ISNA reported Monday that the pastor would soon be released on bail - which Naghmeh Abedini charged Tuesday was "clearly a lie."

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

His wife said he felt that it was safe to go back repeatedly because he had had no dealings with the authorities since he promised to stop working 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 returned 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 under house arrest. In September he was jailed, in the notorious Evin prison, while he awaited trial.

- kramsaycnn

Filed under: Iran

soundoff (1,210 Responses)
  1. Matt in KY

    "...founded by Televangelist Pat Robertson".

    No slant here.

    If I were arrested in my town for DUI that many times, they would give me a life sentence. That said, Iran should come up off that gross non-secular dimwit mentality. In light of their stone aged decisions in criminal justice, based on clear religious persecution, I demand you give us that dimwit back, as a show of good faith and progress everywhere.

    January 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  2. Stephen Daedalus

    Ummm... what was this guy thinking? Oh right.. he wasn't. Praise jeebus.

    January 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  3. JackAlias

    I wonder if he will be dumb enough to go back again after he gets out....

    January 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Stephen Daedalus

      Probably... it's no dumber than heading in the first place, right?

      January 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  4. Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

    These people have the right idea, but they are not being inclusive enough. All religious people should be isolated from those of us not burdened by the fallacy of religion.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  5. TheAntiChrist

    Mommy why did daddy get put in prison? Well sweetie he was trying to bring Christ to the Iranian people. Why didn't God protect Daddy? Cause God wanted Daddy to endure this trial so he could become a stronger man. Mommy why does daddy have to be a stronger man? I don't know sweetie maybe we are ignorant and need to grow up and stay home where our loved ones are.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Stan

      He went to Iran to visit his family, Einstein,

      January 27, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Nate

      No he didn't. Why does poor Einstein always get dragged into doofus comebacks?

      March 16, 2013 at 1:33 am |
  6. are122

    "This is a real travesty – a mockery of justice," <~~ What should anyone expect. Iran is a mockery of human existence.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • steve

      Gitmo (Cough)

      January 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  7. Jo blo

    Maybe the prior 10 arrests should have been a hint to either stop or get out of that stone age toilet. It's not like he wasn't warned and being from the US sure didn't improve his outcome. It's no secret they hate westerners and especially if your not Islam and trying to convert people there. Yeah, real shocker this is.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  8. Jay

    He went over there knowing full well things like this can happen over there. He's lucky they didn't just outright kill him. Then again, it's not like they're going to treat him too well in their prisons either. I'd rather have been beheaded instead of being tortured for the next 8 years.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jo blo

      I thought the same thing, he'll probably end up commiting suicide. It's a sad story but really, he previous 10 arrests should have been a clue. I guess he was trying to be a renegade but he had to know this was a very probable outcome.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • sam stone

      he should celebrate it. just think how much jesus is going to favor him for being tortured

      January 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nate

      Being The Jeebus Emissary seemed so much cooler in comic book.

      March 16, 2013 at 1:35 am |
  9. dan

    they didnt actually say what the charges were, or if he was still doing home churches... which he had at least 10 warnings about.

    and we all know iran isnt that friendly to americans. come on. if you get arrested 10 times in iran, maybe get the hint to freakin leave or stop .

    people get so surprised when this happens.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  10. Dave

    But wait, Islam is a peaceful, loving religion. This story must be wrong. And Iran is a democratic country. Clearly all three statements are wrong, wrong, wrong.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Mikey

      There are extremist Muslims as there are Christians.. Most of the Iranian people are not extremists

      January 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Critical Thinker

      Hei Mikey,

      Id love to see your source on that please. Please show me some polls that support that most Iranians support more liberal views? Wake up, Islam is not, never was and never will be peaceful or tolerant.

      January 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Nate

      Religion poisons everything. Doesn't matter which one (disclaimer: except Straight White King James Amerika)

      March 16, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  11. Bob

    A very large reason for people to leave Europe and the founding of the US is Freedom of religion. You may be atheist but your outright hatred and willingness to speak such hatred of a man because of his religious beliefs is wrong. So you say that anyone of faith (any faith) should go to jail for such beliefs? You are the hypocrite who procalm's freedom but deny the basic principals of freedom and the freedom of an individual to practice religion without persecution. You are persecuting this individual just based on his belief alone and are as bad as the zealots who put him in jail.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Joan

      " You are persecuting this individual just based on his belief alone and are as bad as the zealots who put him in jail."

      That's why Christians here in America persecute gays, lesbians, atheists. Look in the mirror.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Science

      Evolution won in the Dover court trial. ID/creation can not be taught in public schools in US.. Moving forward, take a blood test map your genes.

      Creationists' tactics also have a more profound impact on science education which goes beyond biology because they communicate the idea that there is something lacking or something wrong with evolutionary theory, an idea which is not actually true from a scientific standpoint. This causes students to develop very mistaken beliefs about the nature of science, the scientific method, and how scientific research is used. This cheats students out of the proper science education which they deserve.

      Attempts to use the law to restrict or dilute the teaching of evolution in public schools matters because science matters. As society relies more and more heavily on science and technology on ever more fundamental levels, it becomes increasingly more important that all citizens receive a proper grounding in science and the scientific method. Science education is becoming a key part of what it means to be a well-informed and well-educated citizen of today; therefore, any effort to temper science education in order to placate a vocal religious group cheats the students, cheats society, and cheats our future.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      Bob, dimwit, I don't hate this pastor. He chooses to live his life based on a fraud. He intentionally went to spread this fraud to another culture that holds to a different fraud and punishes anyone who doesn't subscribe to their fraud.

      What exactly do you want? If religion would go away we wouldn't have this specific problem. We can't get involved every time 2 knuckleheads want to argue which imaginary creature is the super-best-est, or which social rules are the mighty-righteous-est, especially when one intentionally went to another country to continue the argument.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Exactly

      Right on End Religion. Why should we care what this guy gets for going where they don't want him preaching about the 'wrong' god. More of us have to be willing to stand up to these ridiculous claims about god. End religion now...

      January 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Bet

      You might want to ask the North American indigenous people about that "freedom of religion" thing. It didn't work out quite as well for them.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • J-Pap

      I hear what you are saying, but the guy is an idiot. You don't go to Iran to convert people to christianity without expecting to get in trouble.

      January 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • skoksvalley

      In the US we have freedom of religion and freedom from religion, Iran does not share these same views. If you go to another country and break the law, whether you agree with their system is irrelevant, you will be prosecuted.
      Notice the wording, prosecuted not persecuted. Americans are not above the law while in another country.

      January 27, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  12. mec the mental midget

    Religious people are on the right side of history. Hundreds of years from now, people will look back on religion and say, "Wow, those people were really smart. Talking snakes? Absolutely real." And by then the human race will be able to prove the talking snake did in fact exist.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      mental midget,

      "In the beginning there was an explosion," explained Noble Prize-winning physicists Steven Weinberg in his book The First Three Minutes, "which occurred simultaneously everywhere, filling all space from the beginning with every particle of matter rushing part from every other particle." The matter rushing apart, he said, consisted of elementary particles, neutrinos and the other subatomic particles that make up the world. Among those particles were photons, which make up light. "The universe," he said, "was filled with light." Interesting, that's what the Bible says too. – McKenzie

      I am not saying you believe, but suppose there could be an intelligent being with the power to create everything we can perceive. If he could do that, making a snake that could communicate shouldn’t be too difficult.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Joan

      "The matter rushing apart, he said, consisted of elementary particles, neutrinos and the other subatomic particles that make up the world. Among those particles were photons, which make up light. "The universe," he said, "was filled with light." Interesting, that's what the Bible says too. – McKenzie"

      You know we could use the light saying from many other religions doesn't mean it's actually fact.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Science

      Come on Robert Brown
      Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway - which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells - has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

      Evolution won in the Dover court trial. ID/creation can not be taught in public schools in US.. Moving forward, take a blood test map your genes.

      Creationists' tactics also have a more profound impact on science education which goes beyond biology because they communicate the idea that there is something lacking or something wrong with evolutionary theory, an idea which is not actually true from a scientific standpoint. This causes students to develop very mistaken beliefs about the nature of science, the scientific method, and how scientific research is used. This cheats students out of the proper science education which they deserve.

      Attempts to use the law to restrict or dilute the teaching of evolution in public schools matters because science matters. As society relies more and more heavily on science and technology on ever more fundamental levels, it becomes increasingly more important that all citizens receive a proper grounding in science and the scientific method. Science education is becoming a key part of what it means to be a well-informed and well-educated citizen of today; therefore, any effort to temper science education in order to placate a vocal religious group cheats the students, cheats society, and cheats our future.

      New back fill for evolution with DNA
      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Science,
      And by the by, 14bn years is a very short time in biological terms. It’s only 4 times 10 to the power 17 seconds. But the number of variations in even the simplest protein –would be a number multiplied by 10 to the power 100. And if you take a single protein such as ti.tin, assembling the components randomly even tens of thousands of times per second and discarding each incorrect version would, in that time, completely fill the universe with the debris – a sphere of 14bn light years diameter, because you have a number so inconceivably vast it would have more than 29,000 zeroes (compared to a number with only 17 zeros for all the seconds so far since the universe began). Try a billion variations per second and you’d still not have one successful attempt, by the law of averages. Or, try a billion billion billion billion per billionth of a second, for every atom in the universe (a number with 80 zeroes) for 14 billion years, and you’d still be nowhere near succeeding. – Carstairs

      January 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Light was absent in the first five epochs of the universe. Yes, they were short epochs, but that's when all the serious business was going on in very complex ways. The early expansion and continual reorganization of the early universe did not involve light, and light had no function. Light was NOT one of the initial conditions and is a mere byproduct of varied earlier processes.

      The bible proves itself silly in declaring the first "action" as consistent with "let there be light." Were the bible consistent with reality, it would describe a very complex and detailed timeline that at least marginally matched with what we know of the first five epochs of the big bang. Instead, the bible sounds exactly like a person's common sense approach to a "mythical" "birth" whereby the first thing a consciousness realizes is "light" and another source besides the self.

      January 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Science

      @ RB To many DNA adams and eves in our gene pool for the talking snake to work.
      Peace.

      January 27, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • junaillo

      **junaillo tiptoes out of peanut gallery.**

      Hey, Harry Potter could talk to snakes!

      **Tiptoes back into peanut gallery**

      January 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  13. Weakness

    8 years in prison? Try being an Atheist. They would have beheaded me.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • GAW

      More closed-minded hatemail from another heathen. I wish it was the year 1692.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • mec

      If only our government could round these atheist "people" up like they do in the middle east.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Exactly

      GAW – I wish we could go back just a little farther and encourage Nero to throw the remainder of the Christians to the lions...

      January 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • are122

      Hopefully they'd first ask you how the laws of physics governing the universe came about...llol.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Bet

      If only our government could round these atheist "people" up like they do in the middle east.

      I see that you now consider atheists as "people". Dehumanization is one of the first steps towards genocide. You seem to be right on track.

      January 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  14. Alberto Ribera

    He's CIA

    January 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  15. Zulux

    I'm no fan of islam..but trying denying and questioning holocust in germany or france and see how many years in prison they'll give you for your "beliefs." I don't do that in europe...he shouldn't be doing that in iran

    January 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Akira

      How is wh*t this man is going through and the Holocaust even remotely similar?
      Not to mention the fact that the Holocaust happened – we have written and pictures and film...if you want to deny overwhelming evidence, I suppose that's your right, but in this instance, the two scenarios are not even close.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  16. David S. Jacoby

    14 response so far and they are all in support of the Iranian government locking up a US pastor for sharing his beliefs and in support of persecuting the Christian minority in Iran. What more can one say? Is atheism really an intellectual position as you claim or just a cover for Anti-Christian bigotry?

    January 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      If that's your assessment of the responses in this thread than you need to get to a hospital immediately. You're having some sort of stroke that is interfering with your ability to comprehend language and logic.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      he knew the law. he chose to violate it

      January 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • David S. Jacoby

      The point of discussion isn't whether he knew the law. The discussion should be is the law just. As Americans, we have the value of religous liberty. When a law violates that value, we should be outraged, not celebrating or saying whoever was the victim of that law got what he deserved. Just, because someone you disagree with was a victimn of an unjust law doesn't mean you now throw your value out the window. This is how values are supposed to work.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Shane

      - He 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
      - felt that it was safe to go back repeatedly because he had had no dealings with the authorities since he promised to stop working with Christian home services.
      - they received threats during the most recent family visit

      Yet he went back again. Even if you take religion out of it. . . should his arrest come as a surprise? If he was not a pastor you would likely say he should have known better.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Shane

      David. . you realize he was not in the US right. We have those values. . others don't. He went there. It is terrible that it happened. . .the first 10 times.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It is not a social position on whether a certain person should be jailed for a certain action.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Dave8582

      @David S. Jacoby

      I am an atheist, and I do not approve of anyone anywhere, being Jailed, bullied or harassed, etc. for expressing their beliefs. Even if their beliefs are ridiculous.

      A true atheist does not believe in the supernatural. So, Islam is and all other beliefs are, just as silly as Christianity.

      This fellow knew the Iranian laws before he decided to spread the gospel. I guess Jesus wants him to spread the word in prison. God often works in mysterious ways.

      Cheers!

      Cheers!

      January 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • David S. Jacoby

      Here let me help try to help everyone who shares not only the American value that people should have freedom to exercise religion and the larger value that persecuting a minority group in your country is wrong with a model post that you can use for future posts (copy and paste as you see fit):
      This is outrage that someone should be persecuted for thier beliefs, no matter where they are.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So be outraged. Of course it's outrageous in our view. What possible effect do you imagine our outrage is going to have on the outcome? Diplomacy is more likely to get the man freed. But then diplomacy wouldn't make you look so holier-than-thou, would it?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • David S. Jacoby

      I don't think diplomacy and outrage are mutually exclusive. Either way, the point is i'm tired of people posting that he got what he deserved because he should have followed the unjust laws of the tyranny, instead of being outraged by the tyranny, itself. The comments are nothing new. People said the say thing to Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and Nelson Mandella, just to name a few.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      "The point of discussion isn't whether he knew the law. The discussion should be is the law just"
      It would be refreshing if Christians performed the same examination on the laws they hold dear.

      "As Americans, we have the value of religous liberty."
      He was not jailed in America

      That being said, I find god through the consumption of magic mushrooms. Do you feel that Americans value my religious liberty?

      January 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Bet

      People said the say thing to Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and Nelson Mandella, just to name a few.

      Those men fought for civil rights, not religion, in their own country. They didn't go to a foreign country that is known to be hostile to their nationality and religion to evangelize.

      January 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Akira

      Do WE think those laws are unjust? Of course.
      Do the people of Iran think they are unjust? Well, no...probably why they became law in the first place.
      Do you know that old saying "when in Rome, do what the Romans do"?
      If this guy was a shoe salesman instead of a preacher, your outlook would be completely different...and although I wish this man well, he knew full well what he was doing...and chose to do it anyway.
      See, here's the thing: the laws of the US do not apply to any other country BUT the US; he knew that and you know that.

      January 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      @Jacoby: your attempt to equate proselytizing for imaginary creatures to fighting for human rights is preposterous.

      January 27, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  17. NorthVanCan

    Lonely to be an atheist watching the world struggle over such senseless issues.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  18. TheMovieFan

    American citizen travels to Iran. ZERO sympathy here.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  19. Dave Harris

    While I would not put any disgusting behavior below what Iranians are willing to do, "news" from an organization founded by Pat Robertson has just about as much credibility as the Iranian Ministry of Information. There's a good chance they just made this story up. Lies are what they do.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Your post instigates me to research. Do you think it might be complete fabrication?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  20. Peter Bishop

    This man has more guts then most to put his faith where it should be and that is on the front line. People who compare Christians with radical Islam really are showing their ignorance.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • GAW is the new Hitler

      Ignorance as in believing in creationism? A young earth? Talking snakes? Ignorance as in, out of the countless gods or deities that have "existed" mine is real and all others are fake?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Praise Godzilla, or be swept into the pit of chaos and fire when she arises once more!

      January 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Stephen Daedalus

      You mean the history of violence, intolerance, pogroms, and wars? Yeah, who would be dumb enough to make those comparisons... lol

      January 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • the AnViL

      peter bishop... please... goto iran and pick up where saeed abedini left off. get up there on the front line, boy!!

      onward xian soldier!!!

      January 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.