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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. RB

    So why would a preacher be going to Iran and make it known that he is a christian? It is not like you HAVE to be a Muslim there – you just cannot go around trying to convert what you might believe are the "infidels" of the christian faith to your belief system. I have no sympathy for the guy.....he....like most christians I know....seems like a complete fool and an idiot.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      You have no sympathy for a guy who's going to spend eight years in a sh!tty Iranian jail just because he spoke words?

      January 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Splishkid

      You missed the point completely- he CONVERTED ! This is Abigail no no over there. Has nothing to do with being a Pastor

      January 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Apostasy/proselytizing, either way I feel sympathy for the guy.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • b_rox

      Most Christians are stupid? That seems like a very arrogant assumption to make as most theologians are very intelligent. They are the same type of Christian you don't see arguing with Westboro, Atheist and other low end debater. One must chuckle that the "man made book" written thousand of years ago said in the end days Christians would be prosecuted for their faith and put to death. Well look what we have here in today's news. Quite the dichotomy wouldn't you say?

      January 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  2. rosethornne

    Religion is the root of all evil.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      No it isn't.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Zwei Stein

      Current, popular, faith-based religions ARE!

      January 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  3. empresstrudy

    Liberals everywhere are cheering as the peaceful peaceloving Persians of peace swat down the nefarious Christians. If only they could force feed them all to ovens over here, that would be wonderful.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • MagicBishop

      Get a grip and quit your whining,, there's tax free christian churches on almost every single street corner in america free to push as much crazy BS as they want to losers like you ready and willing to suck it up in numbers. Your ridiculous fear based ideology isn't under any kind of real threat.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Joseph

      You're beyond proof why God hates Republicans.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  4. HenkV

    It must have been one heck of a surprise for him to find out that there is religious prosecution in Iran.Who would have though that?

    January 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  5. Rational Libertarian

    You've got to admire the guy.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Zwei Stein

      No...no I don't.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  6. aguy

    He went and was arrested 10 times before for being Christian. He can rot for all I care. If he returns to that place after 9 other arrests, he gets what he deserves for being stupid.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Yarah

      One day you will rot you Idiot

      January 27, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Zwei Stein

      And so will you Yarah.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  7. Danlian

    Frankly in this day and age it amazes me how far people will go because someone else believes in a different imaginary father figure in the sky.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Gary

      It amazes me how closed minded and d-bags atheists can be.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Spiffy McGillicutty

      Both sides are playing the "my invisible friend is better than your invisible friend" game.

      Time to change the channel.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Yarah

      When you're on your death bed, I bet you will at least wonder!

      January 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Wonder what?

      January 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Yarah

      When you're on your death bed, I bet you will at least wonder. Remember that.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yes, I will wonder if the hospital will give me special permission to bring in a prost.itute.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Religion = Irrational fear of death.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I would think that a conscious death is overwhelmed by wonder, but that doesn' t point to the existence of anything supernatural.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Russell's Teapot

      Gary, xtians can be just as close minded as us atheists, hell when it comes to religion we just happen to reject one more god than you do...

      January 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  8. jvance

    America has plenty of warts but it's a beautiful place to live when you see some of the alternatives. Bigotry and intolerance come in every form and nuance available but the final result is always the same – bad.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  9. sfoch

    Well the story seems a bit troublesome. Christians as "Peoples of the Book" are not persecuted in Iran nor are Jews. Many of the ancient cities of Persia boast old churches that have been preserved. We don't really know what he was doing. It is of course not unfeasible that the Revolutionary Guards took issue with him. The Iranian people most certainly wouldn't. I don't know, everytime I read an article about Iran it seems designed to be provocative and to demonize that country. I am sure they print in their newspapers how honest Iranians are being held in prisons and being interrogated by the FBI and CIA, even threatened and tortured. I just say keep a degree of skepticism. If you recall they alleged that a used car salesman of Iranian descent in Texas was plotting with the country of Iran and the Mexican cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador, an act with no benefit bough serious conflict with their age old neighbor with whom they are not at war. The notion that somehow the Iranians who are effective assassin would hire a man, by most accounts who was not the sharpest pencil, with no such experience to do so is ridiculous. Most military and intelligence figures said that it didn't happen. Since then we never heard about the story again. Reason was that it was orchestrated at the time when the West and Israel were attempting to politically isolate Iran from their muslim neighbors and create a conflict with Saudi Arabia. Iran has been trying to isolate Israel and Israel has been trying to isolate Iran. That was the real story.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Mrzaperdon

    Well, with America locking up half the Muslim world for on many occasions frivolous reasons, it doesn't surprise me that something like this would happen.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Russell's Teapot

      Half the muslim world huh? Lol, the US doesn't even lock up half a muslim neighborhood. *smh at the kids these days*

      January 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
  11. The Dead Critic

    The United States sentences Iran to death......

    January 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  12. Bruce Rubin

    Thus, another reason the UN must end.The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/11/04/united-nations-human-rights-council/#ixzz2JDW8NYoX

    January 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  13. Rok

    The Lord will triumph in the day of judgement. Until then, evil abounds in Iran and everywhere else. Stay persistent brother – the Lord has great plans for you.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • lol@religion

      lol @ the fact that not a thousand prayers can get him out unless there is a notorious negotiator to go over there and intervene. Don't you see that by him being jailed, Allah won? And by him being released, Jesus wins? And in the end, he and everyone involved were fighting to prove who's imaginary friend is stronger? But go ahead, pray. LOL.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  14. Kerry

    Stay out of Iran. It's not a free country. Having those expectations is unrealistic. This is a perfect example. He never should have taken that bus and given them that power over him. Sad that he learned the hard way. But really, I think those lost hikers were a good indication of where Iran's head is at. And those people were only close to the boarder, they were made to enter the country by gun point, illegally. And held for random by a country that expects to be taken seriously by the international community. They have a long ways to go. Pity the people the government they allowed in power. Now they too have lo live without human rights.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  15. Mike al Muslim

    The light of Islam will shine to every corner of the world. All you haters can say all the lies you want but Islam is the greatest religion on earth. Mohammad is the greatest leader in history for he was superior at the religious and secular levels. People read the holy quran an learn

    January 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • MannyMado

      Yes – the bit about hacking peoples heads off if their faith tells them another religion is more suited for them is a wonderful concept. And murdering innocent people in the name of your god is another great facet of this cult.. especially getting to molest children when you go visit allah (after you die killing innocent people.)

      The religion of peace huh...

      January 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Delusion NEVER offers light. Stupid muslim dog.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Hairy Johnson

      There is no light in Islam. Islam is a religion from the pit of hell.
      Islam denies the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
      Jesus Christ is the Lord God Almighty <3 Jesus Christ is SAVIOR & Lord

      January 27, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • The Dead Critic

      Nice try "TROLL"...attempting to incite a response by making an idiotic comment. "Simple minded people breed simple minded children!" -My 'Ol man.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Zwei Stein

      You should try reading my book. I'm almost finished with it. You will learn even more. It is the TRUE book and shines above all others. Unless you do, you will be lost forever! ZS

      January 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • copper

      Muhammad was a Pedophile Muhammad's wife was 9 years old your religion based on a pedophile

      January 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Sooz

      ROFL @ copper's post ! Christianity is based on a deep space dwelling pedophile wizard screwing a teen aged girl who birth's a dragon slaying water walking beamed up to space mini-me wizard.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • End Religion

      Mohammad and the God of Israel were pedophiles. That's hardly the sort of leader a reasonable person should praise.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Russell's Teapot

      Mohammad was a delusional epileptic

      January 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  16. Zwei Stein

    You don't go there that often to preach. A day here, a week there etc. nonsense! Even I don't believe it. The article says that the last time he was HELD, was in 2009, but by that time he had already been arrested at least ten times. Now mind you, he only converted FROM Islam thirteen years ago. Something really screwball going on here. He supposedly lives in Idaho. Has he ever been there more than a couple days? BS on the whole affair.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • drcaren

      He still has family there he likes to visit, and this visit there he was trying to start an orphanage. There are so many people in Iran who live in fear every day. It has nothing to do with religion for Iran – just for anyone who isn't militant like the terroristic leaders. Christians are just easy targets. If not for the hope that people like this pastor offer to others in Iran then there would be no hope. Some people just choose to care about other people more than themselves – just as Christ would. That is unselfish courage.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Zwei Stein

      He could start an orphanage here, or a homeless shelter, or a shelter for the abused, or a free clinic, or a free de-tox center. Lord knows we need plenty of help here. An orphanage in Iran...BS!

      January 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Jaybarb

      What are you implying here?

      January 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Zwei Stein

      I'm implying that the orphanage story is BS. I don't have a clue as to what is real, but his travels and story don't sound real.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  17. inspiration

    Isn't religion a dumb idea? And so primitive, too. Basically, it's the equivalent of two chimps arguing which rock is better to crack the nuts with. Totally ridiculous and inconsequential.

    It's just too bad that there's real damage done to the instigators as a result.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • MannyMado

      Totally agree – if someone has their belief and faith, more the pity for them. Accepting whatever bad happens as Gods will, and whatever good happens as evidence of his kindness – its bit too convenient for me, and stops people even questioning what they believe in!

      January 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • inspiration

      To me, anyone who is religious is revealing to the world that he (she) isn uneducated and not too bright...

      January 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Tim

      I really feel sorry for him and his family. But, with what we have going down in Cuba it's karma.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  18. MannyMado

    What is it with people of faith? They try to convert someone to their way of thinking, because theyre so desperate to be right? Muslims are not about to become Christian because of someone else's comments on CNN, and likewise Christians wont be converting to Islam for the same reason. Yet, here we are as with every other CNN story on religion, with the battle-royale of the Islam v Christianity debacle.. if you have faith, good for you – its your faith and personal to you, but leave everyone else alone to believe what they choose. I am proudly atheist and will never be converted to someone elses personal choices.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • inspiration

      Become an activist – it's like teaching people that the Earth isn't round after all, regardless what they want to believe. Nonsense should never be accepted as OK.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • inspiration

      OOOps, I meant to say "the Earth isn't "flat" ... ;-)

      January 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Suzie Creamcheese

      "proudly' atheist.... good for you, then why read stories about religion? Sounds like you are the typical atheist, feeling left out and not called by God. Time for you to S T F U.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • inspiration

      Susie, reading ther story about religion is like reading comedy. It's always fun.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      The cream cheese is between your ears, Susie.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Michael

      Suzie,

      I see Christians commenting on articles about atheists all the time. Does that mean they're secretly atheist, or that they shouldn't be allowed to read said atheist article and should be confined to articles about Christians?

      The fact of the matter is that atheists live in a religious society that is quite pushy, rude, insecure, and insists on getting its own way (your post is a perfect example). Sometimes it even does so illegally. Atheists shouldn't be expected to take that lying down, especially if they believe in the principles of the First Amendment.

      Also, I'm sure Jesus would be oh so proud of your "S T F U" remark.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Jaybarb

      And you're an atheist reading a religion blog because...

      January 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Bob

      Suzie, it's because religious nutbars vote and impact the laws that we have to live by. Any efforts to push back against religious idiocy are well-justified, on this blog and elsewhere.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Bob

      And my last comment also applies to JayBarb's question.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Jaybarb

      Fair play. I get why it's interesting to read about other's beliefs and express one's own opinion about those beliefs. I don't think I would have the energy to read and argue, read and argue, repeat...but more power to ya if you do!

      January 28, 2013 at 1:13 am |
  19. Michael

    He played with fire and got burned. This was not only an extremely selfish thing to do (considering that he has a wife and child), but also excessively foolhardy, considering how many times he'd been arrested prior. I would have vowed never to return after the FIRST arrest and let the family members from the "old country" come visit ME.

    This isn't a matter of some guy walking through the park and being arrested of being "Christian" where you can cry persecution... he was being willfully defiant of a radical Islamist state that goes after ANYONE who isn't Muslim, especially those who converted out of Islam.

    January 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Michael

      I'll add that, if anything, I'm surprised Iran gave him as many chances as they did before finally deciding to throw the book at him.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Suzie Creamcheese

      You can't believe any story on CNN because they do not have an real journalists, just dropouts from 2-year 'colleges' who 'think' they can write. So you have no way of knowing the TRUTH of why this young man is in prison. The story 'hints' that he agreed to stop working with the local churches there, and if he did indeed honor his agreement, then they put him in jail (where they plan to kill him) because he converted from Islam. Until you have worked / lived in islamic strongholds like Iran or Saudi Arabia, you have no idea how '4th world' those places are, but if you did, you wouldn't have voted for the idiot, and clearly you did. Can you spell what you are? m o r o n.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • MannyMado

      Suzie – you get so upset when people have a difference of opinion to you.. in other words, youre a Christian hypocrite who says everyone has to agree with you, and you wont debate their side of the story.. usually because you realize what a false facade organized religion is..

      January 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • drcaren

      Suzie, I agree. He had not violated the previous agreement. He was not there on any religious quest. He was there to start an orphanage that is needed because of the Militant Islamic beliefs that are willing to kill anyone that are not as militant as the leading terrorists. If not for people like him so many in Iran would have no hope. There used to be a time when people thought it was good and honorable to fight for those who could not fight for themselves – especially those from their home land. How sad that our mentality that is only about "us" and "our beliefs". Now it seems that anyone who has faith in something that another doesn't understand it is viciously attacked. Most of the times Christians are called uneducated but truly many are more educated than those who has only been saturated and engrained with evolutionistic and Darwinistic beliefs through the public school and government system, without ever educating themselves on the Bible and the history of the evidence of Creationism such as Acts in Facts.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Jaybarb

      So...he shouldn't be allowed to visit his home country and parents ever again?? It seems you've failed to read or comprehend all the details here. He's returned NINE TIMES (without incident) since being busted and released. He's agreed to their terms; he wasn't in Iran to promote home churches. If an American citizen is arrested in a foreign country and sentenced under charges from 11 YEARS ago, religiously affiliated or not, we should take note and oppose it.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Michael

      drcaren,

      My experience has been quite the opposite, that it is atheists who are typically more knowledgeable about many subjects, including and especially religion, than Christians are themselves. Indeed, many people (myself included) turn away from Christianity because they read the Bible from front to back and realize just what a barbaric, antiquated book it is, and believe that humanity has advanced beyond the days when a person could be murdered for being a so-called witch, and in which other human beings were enslaved and slaughtered by decree of the god. And indeed, you hope to stifle any criticism (and thus free speech altogether, I imagine) of your religion by calling such an "attack," though if I were to criticize someone in a debate for using fallacious tactics, it wouldn't ever be called an "attack" by anyone.

      Finally, there is no such thing as an evolutionist, any more than someone acknowledging the existence of gravity becomes a gravitationist. Creationists are called such because they deny scientific fact for favor of their religious dogmas, and are the modern day equivalent of people who believed the world was flat. A person becomes an "ist" when they believe something outside of the norm, not when they accept facts proven and taught at any common biology class.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Michael

      Jaybarb,

      You said
      "It seems you've failed to read or comprehend all the details here. He's returned NINE TIMES (without incident) since being busted and released."

      The funny thing here is that you're the one who has done the very thing you accuse me of. He was ARRESTED "nearly 10 times" according to his wife, the last one being in 2009. Yes, he had been back nine times SINCE, but that doesn't take away from the fact that just three years ago (as of the time of his arrest), he'd been arrested upon multiple occasions and that it's well known-and he should know better than most-how intolerant and dangerous the Iranian gov't is when it comes to religious minorities.

      He has no excuse when it comes to his own safety for the sake of his family... this was pure stupidity. Like I stated, it would have been much safer for everyone if he'd arranged for the family to come see HIM instead of the other way around.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  20. realbuckyball

    Well THAT will teach him to preach the right invisible friend.

    January 27, 2013 at 4:58 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.