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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. Bob

    Hope the pastor can be reunited with his wife and children. Unbelievable that this kind of persecution happens in the 21st century.

    January 27, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Bob

      In Utah, they prosecute consenting adults who take on multiple spouses. How is that any different? They are not even legally married. Simply sharing a roof and have had multiple religious marriage ceremonies.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  2. Tony

    Well, all I have to say about this is. If you are stupid enough, and I can't describe how stupid this guy really is. Too find yourself preaching or even talking about Jesus in Iran. Then you certainly have what is coming to you. Enjoy the next 8 years of your life, maybe you needed this to get your head out of your rectal area. Please, US Government. Leave the fool alone, he had it coming.

    January 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  3. Oh, I get it, hugolast is an..

    @55#0LE

    January 27, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  4. Bob

    This guys deserves his punishment. He was dimwitted enough to go to Iran when he knew he was breaking their laws. It makes no difference if the laws are just or not. He has volunteered himself as an American hostage by going to Iran as a convert. He's also torn apart his family and ruined the lives of many, including his own lawyer.

    January 27, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • palespyder

      I am inclined to agree, we say it in our own legal system, ignorance of the law is no excuse. He knew he was in a Islamic theocracy, his punishment is what they decide it is.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • hugolast

      Deserves his punishment. Really?

      For what, converting from islam? For starting an orphanage? For being an Iranian who became an American citizen?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • palespyder

      How about for prosthelytizing illegally in an Islamic Theocracy?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Bet

      @ hugo

      It doesn't matter whether you or I think that Iranian law is just. When you are in a foreign country, you are obliged to obey their laws. It is against the law in Iran to preach christianity. He broke that law. It's very sad, but Iran is not the United States. There is no freedom of religion there. I wish him well, but I don't feel that the US government has any obligation to work to free him.

      Why doesn't Pat Robertson get off his wallet and try to get this guy back. He's got plenty of money, and the guy works for him.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Bob

      For knowingly breaking unjust laws in a foreign land and placing America in the awkward position.

      If he wanted to help children in Iran, he could have donated money. Instead, he personally went there and put his entire family in danger. He is choosing to be a martyr.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Danno

      I wouldn't say he deserved it but....I will say he was an idiot.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • DP

      Then you also agree that those crossing our boarder illegally need to be deported because they knowingly entered the US without proper authorization.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Bob

      Illegals in the US should face the consequences of the laws. The only problem is that it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to send them all home. It would also be a humanitarian crisis when you drop 50 million homeless people into Mexico.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Jaybarb

      You guys realize the government had busted him on the church thing and released him as long as he agree not to do it when he returned? And that he was adhering to that agreement? Just wanted to check that you're actually reading the WHOLE story.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  5. Mike al Muslim

    As a muslim I despise the government of Iran . They are pure evil and are a truly treacherous. That being said why imprision this poor minister. He can preach to me whenever he wanted it wouldn't shake my faith one bit. Folks the Iranian people are kind generous souls who don't hate our people in America.

    January 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Isma'il

      you're an apologist and should go down the yellow brick road to get some courage

      January 27, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Why, because a brother is bound to turn on him?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  6. coderjones

    Governments need to raise up against religion itself.......

    January 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • cocopuf4u

      Your lack of any real faith is not going to convince anyone with faith in God because of your own idiocy here.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  7. Ahmedinejad Is a Dog

    Time for Iran to be wiped from the map

    January 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • palespyder

      He broke their law, hardly worthy of "wiping them off the map" and China is their Ally, you really want to shake that hornet's nest with the state we are in financially?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  8. nonbeliever

    I'm as left leaning as they come, but with this does not come passivity. The idea that in 2013, in some parts of the world you can be jailed or executed for believing in another god, or "worse", no god, is astounding to me. Stop playing by these apes' rules in the name religious tolerance. Better yet, simply stop playing the game. Eventually they'll kill themselves off or grow some rational thought. That's called adaptation.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      nonbeliever,,

      Just what is you 'opinion' as to Muslims breeding like bunnies and not adhering to the other majorities who deem it worthy to abort their unwanted children? Just how long will it take for tomorrows' percentages of the religious persuasions to be overrun by Muslim's bunny rabbit hordes?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Do not go to Iran unless you want to go to jail. How hard is that to understand?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • Ben Edwards

      I suspect that religion will remain prevalent in the undeveloped world. The "First World", including Europe, North America, and east Asia, will polarize into highly developed, technocrat civilizations that will see the end of organized religion in those parts.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • edward

      Lol – you think they will kill themselves...

      It is time for all humans to grow up and stop praying to men in the sky.

      Silly people and their silly gods.

      Grow up people...

      There is NO god...no afterlife...how was your prelife? That is what your afterlife will be...nothing is nothing to worry about. Stop poiting fingers at each other...my god is better...you're wrong...blahh. Blaaahhh blaaaahhhh...silly little people...spend your few years on this earth knowing it all...silly little people.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  9. Chad

    Hezbollah, Lebanon's Baath call for destruction of Israel

    Hezbollah and Lebanon’s Baath Party on Friday called for the annihilation of Israel, blaming the Jewish state for spearheading a "conspiracy" against the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis, Lebanon's Daily Star reported.

    In a joint statement, “The two sides underscored the need to unify ranks in the face of the big conspiracy hatched against the resistance-rejectionist axis."

    “The main enemy in Lebanon and the region is the Zionist enti ty and we must exert every effort and our energy to eradicate this arrogant ent ity,” the statement added

    January 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  10. Tomach

    Let me just say first that the religious nuts in Iran (and elsewhere) really need to join the 21st century and stop being so ignorant. And I feel bad for the guy, but he had to see this coming. You know, 10 times, damn I would've gotten the hint.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • allen

      had to see this coming? kind of like those idiot kids that went mountain hiking in iran last year? but oh ya everyone on these CNN threads had nothing but sympathy for them

      January 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Tomach

      I didn't feel bad for them either. I know to expect to be unfairly treated in those countries, that's why I will not go there.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Were the hikers warned as much as this guy?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  11. allen

    more god fearing lib tards are thinking that this issue is about religion.....typical.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Akira

      Really? What is it about then?
      Enlighten us.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • allen

      its about a US citizen being jailed in Iran. when those idiot kids were arrested last year while hiking you lib tards had nothing but sympathy. now because it has to do with God its all his fault

      January 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  12. wakeup

    What a moron. I hope this is a lesson for other religious nut cases.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • hugolast

      Yeah, glad you are so kind-hearted. I mean, the idiot was there starting an orphanage. What kind of loser is that?

      January 27, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Steve

      and converting the kids to christianity....I could see this becoming a problem.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Tax Damned Churches NOW

      Was it a secular orphanage or would it have crosses on the walls and mandatory prayers of thanks to jesus forced on the suffering kids at every meal and bedtime? Transparent brainwashing of the helpless and yes...that should be a crime in Iran and the USA.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  13. Time

    It's awful that he go to prison for such a time. But the sheer arrogance of these people thinking that only their religion is valid, and that they must save the Muslims. Arrogance and stupidity. But im still sorry for him going to prison, and hope that hsi sentence is commuted in some way.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • wakeup

      Right on!

      January 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • edward

      I hope they pull his skin off as he is a retard for thinking he could get away acting the way he was where he was...jack ass.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Chad's Secret Lover

    Richard...and you're a vet? Doubtful...you sound like a liberal politician not wanting to define Korea or Vietnam as a war because of the implications and consequences that brings...

    vet my azz.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  15. Qvilleman

    Should have stayed in the good ole USofA where you can say whatever you want. Jailed ten times before? Very selfish to put himself before his family like that.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • JohnathanA

      Saeed is a man with faith.
      I am sure he has imparted his raison-d'etre to his family and they understand.
      Islam is so afraid of losing martyrs that it would put a good man in jail for 8 years for having a mind of his own.
      Shame on islam!

      January 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  16. Steve

    God, in whatever form is the real evil.

    People hating and killing their fellow man, because of what they believe or dont believe. Brain washing young children and destroying their young minds with dogma that breeds hatred and violence. People need to have faith in one another.......... not too fond of the Islamist either.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Islamists are here in the USA and their kids are as radical as their relatives in the middle east lands. Go figure,,,,

      January 27, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How many Muslims do you know personally, you deluded dork?

      January 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Steve

      hey, Im saying the same thing about all religions. Im not singling any particular religion out.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Tommie girlie,,, here's a better truth for you to view ,,,,

      January 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • hugolast

      Wow, Steve, glad you chose to exclude atheists from the causes of evil.

      We wouldn't want to besmirch the good name of Stalin, or Pol Pot, or Mao, or Hitler, or Idi Amin, or Charles Manson, or Ted Bundy, when we go linking someone to evil, now would we?

      January 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  17. Chris

    I'm sorry I cannot stand up and protest this. According to Christians and religious nuts all round I am going to hell. As well being an atheist automatically makes me a bad person who doesn't know how to do anything morally right.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Romans 4:5 ¶ But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • gdouglaso

      Sorry...not sure why you cannot stand up to protest this. Agreeing with Christian views is not really central to this. Do you think it is appropriate to be jailed for 8 years for believing (or not believing) certain things? Voltaire once quipped, "I may not believe in a word you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it." This is the crux of what is at issue in Iran.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Ooooo

      I love Romans.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  18. Ed

    I have to say that what he was doing was illegal in Iran. If he wants to be a martyr he has been successful. He didn't return to Iran truthfully, he had to deceive the government or he would not have been allowed into the country. In other words he lied and spreading the word of God is not done by lying.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • hugolast

      The only thing that he did that is illegal in Iran, was choose to follow the saviour, Jesus, who is the Christ.

      In Iran, muslims may not leave islam, on pain of death.

      Nice people, those muslims. One wonders what who have happened if he come to the US and became an atheist, then went back there to tell everyone how stooopid their religion is.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Almost like they should have warned him, huh?

      January 27, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  19. ron

    My own personal beliefs about religion–belief or non-belief–are not germain here. This is a human rights issue.

    January 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Danielle

      How is it a human rights issue? He broke Iranian law. He was punished according to Iranian law. His own fault.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • gdouglaso

      @ danielle...how is it a human rights issue? The question raised here is not so much whether he broke the Iranian law (although it is suggested that he was abiding by Iranian government requests). The issue is more about whether Iranian law runs counter to generally recognized principles involved in human rights.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • GoldenGirl

      Danielle, Do you also believe it was okay to enslave black people just because it was legal? Decide for yourself what is right and wrong instead of letting someone else's laws decide for you.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • palespyder

      Uh no, first and foremost you are told when travelling abroad that you are subject to the laws of the host country and being American may not save you. Grow up, not everyone in the world thinks, acts, or eats like Americans.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  20. Rational Libertarian

    Could we all agree not to respond to bornagain's trolling unless our response contains a song from The Simpsons?

    January 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • hugolast

      Certainly, as long as everyone replies to libertarians with a Barak Obama.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:14 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.