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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. metalhead65

    another example of the peaceful and tolerant religion of islam. death to America praise alla seems to be the motto they live by.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      There can never be peace Islam among humanity, unless hindus out laws and their hinduism terrorism of hinduism racism is eliminated from face of humanity. so much for hindu ism criminality of hindus, deniers of truth absolute.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      There can never be peace Islam among humanity, unless hindus out laws and their hinduism terrorism of hinduism racism of hindu dark ages removed from face of earth. so much for hindu ism criminality of hindus, deniers of truth absolute.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  2. bornagain

    Quit from what? Talking about how awesome and personal christ is? Why would I do that?

    January 27, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Were you sent here by the devil?
      No good sir, I'm on the level.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  3. bornagain

    Right, thats because you have not had the personal experience. It does equal proof to those that have experienced it. If you ever turned from your disbelief and accepted christ into your heart, you would have more than enough proof. You would careless about science. I am a science major, I have a bachelors degree in it. Trust me I know....

    January 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Is there a chance the tracks could bend?
      Not on your life my Hindu friend.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      You are so full of baloney, if you are a scientist you would know that personal experience does not equal proof.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Bet

      Ooh, a science degree! That makes you infallible.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  4. bornagain

    Besides, God holds back all the answers from us for a reason. We are not supposed to have all the answers, otherwise there would be no room for relationship buidling. It is not supposed to be logical my friend, he wants your FAITH, BELIEF AND TRUST FIRST. If you ever decided to give him that, I can assure you that you will be blown away.....

    January 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Our skimpy costumes ain't so bad
      they seem to entertain your dad.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Why don't just quit while your ahead? You keep going in circles and say nothing.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  5. achepotle

    It seems like a fair sentence. I think they should have executed him. He is lucky at 8 years. I think pastors in USA should be given similar sentences.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yeah. I mean, why should free expression be safeguarded? Let's ban words.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • achepotle

      Freedom from religion isn;t free. Sometimes, the tree of liberty needs to be sprinkled with the blood of Christians.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      You just used words. BURN HIM AT THE STAKE!!!

      January 27, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  6. bornagain

    Vocal Atheist. I don't think you are the bad guys. I was for a long time an atheist myself. You are wrong though, we do have proof. There is an overwhelming amount of proof. There is a proof in a relationship with him, there is proof when you feel his holy spirit for the first time. There is proof in prayer. These things do not happen when you reject christ for science. It is that simple. God gives us all the decision to accept or reject him. When you reject him, you are right...you will never get that proof you are looking for. You gotta give him in a chance in your life personally & in order to get that proof you are looking for. It is very personal & specific proof I can assure. Being that I have been on both sides of the fence.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  7. bornagain

    The second law of thermodynamics states that the energy of a system is always being reduced to a LOWER for of energy plus a useless form of energy called "entropy" or the disorganization of a system. Thus completely disproving mutations that would contribute to evolution. See what I mean? I am not making this stuff up. This is the same science that Atheists worship. They just have not been educated that the science they worship completely disproving thier own theories.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • the AnViL

      you are approaching thermodynamics much like an infant jangling a set of car keys.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That should be closed system. Earth is not a closed system.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      No. I don't see what you mean. You either have a limited understanding of thermodynamics or a limited understanding of biology, or both.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • the AnViL

      both, for the win

      January 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
  8. bornagain

    @ wahoo. why am I a dummy? The first law of thermodynamics states that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Something does not appear out of nothing. Even the explosion of a bomb takes existing matter and energy and changes it into another form of matter and energy but does not categorically destory either. The big bang is a complete and utter fallacy. scientifically impossible in regards to our creation.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      So how was the universe created? If you say god without offering any proof, please know that you are a simpleton.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Philojazz

      Excellent question.... Why ARE you a dummy?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • End Religion

      http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html#HOLE

      What is the evidence for the Big Bang?

      The evidence for the Big Bang comes from many pieces of observational data that are consistent with the Big Bang. None of these prove the Big Bang, since scientific theories are not proven. Many of these facts are consistent with the Big Bang and some other cosmological models, but taken together these observations show that the Big Bang is the best current model for the Universe. These observations include:

      • The darkness of the night sky – Olbers' paradox.
      • The Hubble Law – the linear distance vs redshift law. The data are now very good.
      • Homogeneity – fair data showing that our location in the Universe is not special.
      • Isotropy – very strong data showing that the sky looks the same in all directions to 1 part in 100,000.
      • Time dilation in supernova light curves.

      The observations listed above are consistent with the Big Bang or with the Steady State model, but many observations support the Big Bang over the Steady State:

      • Radio source and quasar counts vs. flux. These show that the Universe has evolved.
      • Existence of the blackbody CMB. This shows that the Universe has evolved from a dense, isothermal state.
      • Variation of TCMB with redshift. This is a direct observation of the evolution of the Universe.
      • Deuterium, 3He, 4He, and 7Li abundances. These light isotopes are all well fit by predicted reactions occurring in the First Three Minutes.

      Finally, the angular power spectrum of the CMB anisotropy that does exist at the several parts per million level is consistent with a dark matter dominated Big Bang model that went through the inflationary scenario.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
  9. bornagain

    yeah thats typicall of a non-believer to start calling people names, very little intelligence. Lots of emotion. My belief of what happenned vocal atheist is very simple. creation. Gods utter and complete creation. Its quite simple actually. Also it's important to point out that this could be exactly where God wants Pastor Saeed right now. All prayers aside, it is possible that God wants Pastor Saeed at this prison to preach the message of christ to people who have never heard it. Ever think about it that way? The apostle paul was imprisoned for years while he wrote the new testament....just saying.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was 'ARRRRGH!'" – PIRATICUS 13 :7

      January 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      All you have is speculation and if we question your speculation all of a sudden we are the bad guys. We question and seek the truth and not rely on unverifiable information. You have no substance or foundation to prove your God or its so called creation exists.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • chica

      bornagain, I am dying to know how your "something can't be created out of nothing" argument doesn't apply to god. How can God create the universe? Who created God? I am anxiously awaiting your reply...

      January 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  10. wahoo69

    In the wise words of one of my favorite old sages, "You big dummy!"

    January 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  11. bornagain

    Did I read someone on this thread say that the big bang was proven? haha. A big bang by the very laws of science, no matter how big, could never create anything. e.g. the first and second law of thermodynamics....which I have no problem posting if you do not know what those say. Besides if the big bang was proven then that would mean according to the law of inertia that the rotation of the planets spinning off from the big bang should be conserved, spinning in the same direction. This, clearly is not the case. The ironic thing is that the "science" that Atheists attribute to our exsistence, completely contradicts the very laws that science itself dictate.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      So, let's hear your idea of what happened?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ_W3EAfp6I&w=640&h=390]

      January 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Perry

      Dude you just got owned..... And stop talking like you have a PhD in physics. I bet you do not. And the big bang theory is a Theory not a fact true. But there is a lot more evidence supporting the idea that The Big Bang happened compared to the evidence religious people have in the existence of there God. Go back to church you monkey. :)

      January 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  12. bornagain

    @ The vocal atheist. God is not a genie, that is not how prayer works. Prayer is the supplication of God's spirit, the power to move his hands. It does work I can assure you first hand. We as christians can't determine which prayers will "work" and which will not. Still we pray, and we are prayer warriors at that. More importantly, just because he has not been removed from jail right now does not mean that prayers are not working. Sometimes, it takes time my friend. It takes faith and trust and consistency. But it works.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The problem is that there is no way to measure how much it is or isn't working. You'd get the same data from a milk jug. Until you can measure it, there's nothing but faith.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      No it doesn't. Even if God were real, surely he'd have an immovable divine plan which would render prayer useless.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      You have no proof that it works, all you have is personal experience and that does not amount to proof.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Jiminy Cricket

      "It works"

      So does wishing upon a star...

      If your heart is in your dreams
      No request is too extreme
      When you wish upon a star
      Your dreams come true

      It is written.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • End Religion

      "prayer is .... the power to move god's hands"

      WHAT? lol, I swear you folks deliver more horseshit than the Kentucky Derby. First you tell us he's inerrant. Then you tell us you help him correct his mistakes through prayer. You tell us he has mysterious ways and knows the future yet he still needs his hands guided? A god needs your help? There isn't anything more arrogant than claiming an all-knowing inerrant god who then relies on your prayers to tell him what to do.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Alpha Centauri

      Send a wish to me and I will answer the same as this god character:

      – Yes
      – No
      – Wait

      January 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  13. Mark

    It's a shame, but really the blame falls on this guy. He lives in America. He's a convert from Islam to Christianity. A convert to any religion is considered an Apostate in Islam, which is a crime. Supporting Christianity in Iran is a crime and there is no freedom of religion. He is an Iranian citizen, you don't lose your Iranian citizenship when you become American. Iran is a repressive regime that will throw Americans in jail for no reason. As an Iranian who became a US citizen and a Christian, he is basically considered a traitor in Iran. US citizens have no special rights when they travel abroad, and that is especially the case when you're a citizen of another nation as well. He should have never returned to Iran. He should have known better. There is no freedom in Iran.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  14. TheVocalAtheist

    The guy was arrested 10 times, 10 TIMES! Stubborn Christian or should I say stupid Christian?

    January 27, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Or maybe commendable Christian?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      No, I'll stick with stupid, stupid Christian.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Well I'm going for commendable.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • scranton

      Quite possibly, but the trophy for stupidity goes to Iran and it's views on Islam.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @Rational Libertarian
      "Well I'm going for commendable."

      Let me ask you, how often do you hit yourself in the head with a hammer?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Never on purpose.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • the AnViL

      to be fair – the article says almost ten times.. heck – whatever happened to that good ol' iranian 11 strikes rule????

      HOW INTOLERANT!!!!

      January 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  15. Aezel

    Well, you go to jail for 8 years for spewing your make-believe nonsense in a country that wants you to believe their make-believe nonsense instead. Congratulations.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Exactly and what the heck good comes out of all this? Zero, nada, zip, in fact his family will undergo terrible unnecessary stress and mental pain. For what? Because he was a stubborn idiot. He was basically taunting them. Well now he has to face the piper.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  16. Billy

    When are Americans or for that matter any western country citizens going
    to learn that Iranian nutcase authorities will stop at nothing to jail
    them for any reason. They will be held as pawns to get US to give them something in return. They are pigs and deserve to be wiped of the face of the earth just as they would like to do to Israel. Unfortunately Israel will not be wiped out as the Israels will kick those stupid Islamic butts.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  17. Jecbeanz

    It's unfortunate that CNN, along with many other news outlets, didn't include the reason why he was there in 2012. This was not for ministry – he was helping to build an orphanage in Rasht. It's unfortunate that it his calling to build an orphanage and help those who are without is leading him to be persecuted for his beliefs. But, as a Christian, that is the price of being a follower. I praise him for trying to make a difference in this world and following the path that he felt was chosen for him. He and his family are in our prayers.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Don't you think if prayers worked he wouldn't be in jail now?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Exactly

      Before you start feeling too sorry for him keep in mind the objective of that orphanage was to help convert future children to the Christian myth. Not like he was working as a secular person intent on helping others for the sake of helping...

      January 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Jecbeanz

      If he was seeking the path that God chose for him, perhaps this is the way that was chosen for him. In this respect, perhaps his prayers were answered.

      When you are a Christ follower – you have to expect that you will be persecuted for your religious beliefs. That's the commitment that you make. Persecution can be in many forms, including ridicule, beatings, death, etc... The expectation is that you live your life to glorify God, not yourself. For a non-believer, I'm sure his actions look odd. Why would anyone put themselves in harm's way? But – if you believe this is your calling and you are a faithful follower – that is what you do.

      I pray for this family and for him. I agree with the posters here that he knew the dangers of what he was getting into. If God led him down this path, He will be with him and the outcome will be according to His will.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      What you state is extremely selfish.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Jecbeanz

      What exactly is selfish in what I posted?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  18. Chris

    Delusion meets a delusion, and this news? Wake up and see that we need to own our own story, make one you want to live, get a clue unlike this guy.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  19. Chard

    What Saeed Abedini was doing was exactly what Jesus told us to do:

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    Right?

    January 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yep, and he's being persecuted for it unfortunately.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Chris

      I will tell you this is fake, a fake story, to get your goat.

      I wonder how much the goats worth?

      January 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • albert

      Wrong, Jesus did not teach about erternal torment, Idol worship, Christmas, Easter, or any of the other Pagan and mythology based practices. This pastor is not a true Christian.

      “Did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?” How, though, would Jesus react? His dramatic words express his judgment: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:22, 23.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Matthew 25:46

      January 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Akira

      Albert, I find it amusing that you are now arguing with Chard at what a "true Christian" is; not to mention that his post said absolutely nothing that you asserted.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  20. tellobamahowitis

    fool. now he lost 8 years of his life. perhaps he can save the rats in his cell now

    January 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Billy

      He will be dead by summer...

      January 27, 2013 at 7:10 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.