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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. Livin in Boise

    In 1970, would a Russian refugee have attempted to go back to the USSR to expound on the virtues of capitalism? Highly doubtful and if said refugee had done that, off to Siberia and the Gulags.

    So, why would a supposedly smart Iranian return to Iran to tout Christianity in a fundamental Islamic nation?

    That's just asking for trouble!

    January 27, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It doesn't change the fact that the Iranian government are barbarians.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  2. behaviorquest

    "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," What are these people smoking? Iran is a idiocracy in that given the opportunity to deal with the great Satan they will jump at the chance. The crazy pastor deserves his own fate for tempting it so and challenging the Muslims to do what they do best.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven. Satan wins every time because he is compassionate whereas God is vindictive and spiteful.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  3. trevinski

    What was he doing in Iran in the first plac?

    January 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  4. Jeff

    Another triumph for religion. Fools.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  5. lionlylamb

    January 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  6. velija

    well let me think a little bit about this; hmmm all Christians who entered in Iran were arrested but the media somehow reported only this case; or not, all Americans entered in Iran were arrested but the media decided to report only on this one...hmmm...or maybe this one violated some laws and after many years of warning him not to do that they decided to arrest him.....but that is not possible, one Muslim country must be wrong, right

    January 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  7. bribarian

    The Iranian boogey man OOooOOoooOO

    January 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  8. Lee Oates

    He should have stayed in the States. It's to bad that Native Americans [Indians] didn't have a means to protect themselves from the Christian Missionaries.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  9. truth be told

    All atheists are liars. Review this simple Truth before reading their comments and all they have to say becomes senseless drivel.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Ah but all liars have desks made of satire and industrialized ostrich feathers inserted in every orifice of their club sandwiches.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • MannyMado

      What a balanced view, and may i counter with all Christians are naive and ignorant for believing in that garbage?.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Jcook

      To be a liar you must prove that what they say is false. So prove that they are lying. Prove that there is a god. You can't. There is far more evidence pointing to there not being a god rather than there actually being one. The bible itself proves this. Throughout the bible is references to god, Jesus, and the holy trinity. If you look at the basis for the bible, the Dead Sea scrolls, there is no mention of a higher power. Not one. The bible is completely made up. Again, far more proof against your beliefs than for.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  10. Ekram

    When one in Iran, do what Iranian law dictates......whether they are good or bad laws, its their laws and justice system and they don't have to follow American laws. First of all, if you are American then don't go to Iran. Iran and America have no diplomatic relationship so American citizens going to Iran is dum and unwise for anyone. May be Iran considers any American citizen is CIA/spies???

    January 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Of course it's not very smart to be an American in Iran but their laws concerning free expression are barbaric and must be criticized.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  11. Brian Peppers

    A shining example of Islam's tolerance and love. Truly a progressive religion that is leading the world into the 21st century.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • independent texan

      Certainly unlike our tolerant bible thumpers here in the good ole USA

      January 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  12. Colin in Florida

    Ain't religion great. Applies to all religions, because they all claim to 'know' god and thus know what is right. If this is true, 99% of the people on earth are wrong.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Phil

      Religion is about the pursuit of the truth. There can only be one truth. As a Catholic, I believe my church is the one truth faith and all others are wrong. Well...they are.
      The real danger are the relativists who think we can have 5 billion different truths and you set yourself up as your own authority and what is right and wrong. Dangerous stuff.

      So..atheists claim to know the truth or think they are right about their worldview, just as all others. Why are you being intellectual dishonest about this?

      January 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Religion is not about the pursuit of truth because it sets up barriers for itself and those who are honestly pursuing truth. The true pursuit of truth is not prohibited by the strictures espoused by religion.

      From the perspective of the individual, truth is determined by the application of mental processes upon the experience of reality. We simply have no way to determine if there is a "the truth" outside of that mental function.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Exactly

      @Phil – religion is not about the pursuit of truth. Religion says it already knows the truth. Don't claim your faith is about the pursuit of truth. Do your faith justice and state what it is; spreading the 'truth' it claims to have an exclusive grasp on independent of reason or ration.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  13. coalminer

    Sad but,he did not belong there.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  14. mcalleyboy

    Another American going to bat for Jesus in Iran, for those of you that bashed Hillary, this is the kind of stuff she had to deal with, waste time on because the American public bares its teeth and goes into a known nutville and then begs the state department, "Come to my rescue" Many wasted hours trying to bring back someone who shouldn't have left for such a messed up area and also someone who thinks the world is like the US, surprise sunshine.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  15. TANK!!!!

    This is what Dominionist Christians want to happen over here. And in this country, they number in the tens of millions. Those who are not nominally Dominionists are still pushing that vile agenda. We see them trying to get their book of myths taught in our schools as science and to override the Const.i.tution by denying basic civil rights.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Islamist

      Another dumb atheist. in action

      January 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      @ Islamist

      You proudly claim to be a member of one of the most barbaric cults in the history of mankind. You wouldn't know 'dumb' if it fvcked you missionary style.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  16. rene

    The government and system justice of Iran are abominations, relics from the past that should be placed in a pre-historical museum. Those abusing Saeed's fundamental rights are the present monsters in our civilized world.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Only by hinduism absurdity of a hindu biased hindu, ignorant. this guy committed hinduism violation of law of other country, and he is being made to pay for it.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  17. Colin

    Wouldn’t it sound odd to hear a group of biologists, economists, architects or medical doctors taking a rival from their profession and imprisoning him due to his opinions or beliefs within in their discipline.

    Only religion can cause human beings to act in the most irrational and abhorrent of ways. The sooner we get over our lingering superst.itions as a species, the better.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Religions are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute, humanity is suffering Mayhem for hinduism denial of truth absolute by hindus, ignorant s of hinduism, religions.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Colin

      I think I just poked a Muslim with Tourette syndrome.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Bystander

      I doubt that the idiot who posted the comment above is Muslim. Definitely has psychological issues though.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Akira

      No, but that bot sure hates Hindus, though.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  18. nothing new here

    This guy should have removed his entire family, including parents, out of Iran. He should have stayed out of Iran, and never have gone back.
    Not worth the risk of imprisonment, esp. in a country like that.

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

      The guy did take his family. He lives in my hometown. He preaches at Calvery Chapel in Boise, Idaho. He was in Iran finishing legal work for an orphanage. Please know your facts.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  19. BD70

    Well...when in Iran...too bad. Seems he put himself in his position. If it is faith based then he should do his time willingly and with a glad heart.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Way of follower of hindu Mithra ism, filthy savior ism chrisitianity of hindu dark ages, commit hinduism, illegality, if aught, than cry of hinduism violation of rights.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Eugene Hartke

      Perfect response. Too bad he has already reproduced. Hmmm, I'm going to Iran to tell them the Koran is false. I wonder what will happen? Please stay in Iran, in the unlikely event you survive prison.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Jaybarb

    You'd think atheists had better things to do with their time than lurk on a RELIGION blog. Wow.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It's actually a belief blog.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      if we were lurking you wouldn't know we were here.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Akira

      This is what you have to contribute? RL is right; it's a Belief Blog.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • nothing new here

      The last time I checked, this blog was open to everyone.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • gary

      true nothing new, it's even open to Canadians. :)

      January 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Eugene Hartke

      It's actually a link on the front page of CNN. This sort of nonsensical behavior is why I would not go on a religious blog.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • jim

      Rational Libertarian – "It's actually a belief blog."

      Yes, for 'beliefers", right? Welcome all... beliefers and non-beliefers. Lurkers too.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I have a belief in the tenets of libertarianism. I believe Ingmar Bergman is the greatest film director ever. I believe Serena Williams is a smokin' hottie. We all have beliefs.

      January 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Jaybarb

      My bad...my eyes kept going to the URL that said religion.blogs.cnn. It is indeed a Belief blog, so of course it's wide open! I just find it odd that anyone who disavows the existence of God would have the time/energy to visit articles about people who believe...and then ridicule them. Life's too short! Goodnight.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:06 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.