Iran begins trial for U.S. pastor held since September
Saeed Abedini
January 21st, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Iran begins trial for U.S. pastor held since September

On Monday, American Saeed Abedini appeared in an Iranian court. The Christian pastor gave the judge a written statement and was questioned by prosecutors and his defense lawyer, whom he only met Monday.

But apparently that is not the end of the legal proceedings, according to his wife and lawyers who are assisting her with the situation.

Naghmeh Abedini said "a few" laymen with the Christian church in Iran told her husband's attorney that they have been called to testify in the case, in which the pastor is being tried for his religious beliefs. The lawyer indicated that neither he nor the pastor were expecting to be allowed to attend Tuesday's hearing.

Tiffany Barrans, the legal director for the American Center for Law and Justice, said the church leaders in Iran were faced with a dilemma: They could avoid being witnesses, or they could testify in court and possibly face similar charges.

"They are all very fearful to have to show up," she said on a conference call with Nahgmeh Abedini and Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the nonprofit organization, which provides legal counsel and litigates cases involving freedom and liberty issues around the world.

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

"He sounded OK," she said. "He sounded tired. He said he had come to a realization that they would not be releasing him anytime soon. Up until Christmas he had had hope."

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

His wife said he felt like he was OK to go back repeatedly because he had no dealings with the authorities since he promised to no longer work 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 came back 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 on house arrest. In September he was jailed, in the notorious Evin prison, while he awaited trial.

On Monday, the Iranian state-run news agency INSA reported he would soon be released on bail, but his wife said the court had rejected the family's attempt to pay.

She and her lawyers said the bail was $116,000, and the court rejected it on a technicality.

"His family (in Iran) has been running in circles to pay his bail and each time the court has rejected them and ask for more documents," she said. "For us its like they are crying wolf."

Her attorneys said the Iranian court is trying to gain positive worldwide media attention.

"The judge in this case has to portray it as if this is going to be a fair trial," Barrans said.

INSA also reported the trial was finished in one session, something Naghmeh Abedini doesn't believe.

Barrans said her team notified U.S. officials of the latest developments, but the State Department failed to respond.

Last week a spokeswoman for the department told reporters: "We understand that a hearing will be held soon, and we call on Iranian officials to respect Iran's own laws and provide Mr. Abedini access to an attorney."

Naghmeh Abedini said she remained hopeful even though her husband's lawyer told her to be prepared for a conviction and sentence next week.

"I have a lot of peace and faith that it's all going to work out in its time," she said.

But she added that she sleeps only two hours a day, and her mind is constantly running through all the possibilities of what could happen to her husband.

She believes he has been tortured in prison, and it's possible that the judge could sentence her husband to death for a capital crime.

She also worried about her children, ages 4 and 6, who haven't seen their father in eight months. Dad was the one who gave them their baths at night, who read to them and sang them to sleep.

Now, they tell their mother they have a hard time remembering his face, so they put DVDs in and watch him as he played with them as babies.

"Every day is like 100 years to them," she said. "They are in great emotional pain."

She has only spoken to their father a few times since he was imprisoned. He is allowed to make short calls to his parents every Wednesday.

Naghmeh sounds strained. She comes back several times to her wish.

"There should be an outcry from the world that his religious freedom ... is being taken from him. And they should free him right now based on their own laws that (they) have signed on to and agreed to."

Saeed Abedini isn't the only American being held at Evin prison. Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine and decorated Iraq war veteran, is imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges.

Within weeks of setting foot in Iran for the first time in August 2011 to visit his grandmother, he was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned.

Months later he appeared on Iranian TV, showcased as a confessed CIA operative. The State Department has denied Hekmati was spying for the U.S. government and called the case a gross miscarriage of justice. A court convicted Hekmati of espionage, sentencing him to death, but he has since been granted a retrial.

CNN's Eric Ferrell contributed to this report.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. richunix

    I truly feel sorry for the gentleman, but he knew better. One whack-job religion trying to convert another whack job religion, when will they learn. As an Atheist, I believe NO ONE needs to die or be tortured based on the their religious belief. If your religion holds that your fellow man needs to die because of his beliefs, as they are not in line with yours, then your religion is criminal and needs to be removed from the face of the earth.

    Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    January 22, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • Chip Smith


      January 22, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • sam stone

      If he is willing to die for his beliefs, then I suppose he should take it without complaint

      January 22, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Ray

      No, and here you are spouting your philosophy in a freedom that this man cannot enjoy. If your philosophy gives you a lack of empathy I wouldn't want anything to do with it.

      January 22, 2013 at 7:23 am |
  2. Islam is the cesspool of barbarism!

    enough said

    January 22, 2013 at 6:38 am |
  3. NanookoftheNorth

    Maybe we could send Prince Harry over there...if he kills Taliban, he could certainly handle that little pos country !

    January 22, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  4. Henry

    Now that Obama has more "flexibility" with the second term in his presidency and he already has shown this flexibility by signing tons of executive orders... will see what kind of flexibility he is willing to show to the Iranian regime?

    January 22, 2013 at 6:24 am |
  5. pnm9pnm

    by the way Irunt your time is running out you jihad we mite take you down.//////////////,.pnm,.

    January 22, 2013 at 6:18 am |
  6. christy

    The only thing I can do is pray for this pastor and his family.

    I admire him for having the balls to leave the comfort of America and go to Iran where he knew he could face imprisonment for his beliefs. Unlike televangelists, there is nothing apparently self serving about him.

    January 22, 2013 at 6:14 am |
  7. pnm9pnm

    his religon is a settins as is all religon to who ever belives in it/,.pnm,.

    January 22, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • BaconEater

      I believe you need to take some English and Spelling lessons.

      January 22, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  8. NativeUSA

    If we had a commander in chief that had a ball sack instead of a koran on his night stand they'd already be a parking lot........

    January 22, 2013 at 4:35 am |
    • Lizard Lance

      Native USA is a typical dumb American who has no clue how the rest of the world operates, and who doesn't care.

      January 22, 2013 at 4:54 am |
    • sam stone

      Gee, Native, you sure are a brave internet warrior.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • Jeremy

      Quit feeding the trolls fellas.

      January 22, 2013 at 6:09 am |
    • Aaron

      why would the president have a ball sack on his night stand?

      January 22, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  9. bezerkur

    Odin is everything. Odin juggles neutron stars and farts gamma ray bursts. Our solar system is just a cell in Odin. Every God name or idol is of mans creation.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:35 am |
  10. Onefai

    Even I am an ex-Christian, I admire his bravery. I hope he can be freed too. I would pray for him but we all know praying won't help.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:35 am |
  11. NativeUSA

    Iran is only good for one thing...........a parking lot glass one.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:34 am |
  12. akismet-cdd717537cb1e97907e8354bd2681436

    it would be public outrage if it were a gay man being held. Amazing how hypocritical "objectivists" are towards Christians while claiming to be unbiased. "Claiming to be wise, they became fools"

    January 22, 2013 at 3:38 am |
    • Onefai

      That's not true, and you know it too. Stop spreading hatred.

      January 22, 2013 at 4:33 am |
    • Michael

      This isn't even about him being a Christian, in particular, it's about extremist Islam's intolerance towards ANYONE who isn't a Muslim. It's a shame that a supposedly "Christian" person like yourself obviously harbors such hatred not only for gay people, but for anyone with a different point of view, though. You're probably cut from the same cloth as the guys who arrested this man.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:27 am |
    • schuylerryan

      if it was up to akismet I am sure Muslims, Gays, and anyone with a differing opinion would be in prison.

      January 22, 2013 at 6:34 am |
  13. AmericanMuse

    An intolerant and ossified religion indeed!

    January 22, 2013 at 3:21 am |
  14. DickPerry

    "She believes he has been tortured in prison, and it's possible that the judge could sentence her husband to death for a capital crime."
    So its like being in a american prison then..

    January 22, 2013 at 3:15 am |
  15. God believer

    He who is without sin cast the first stone.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  16. just curious

    There were house meetings of muslims in the u.s. and we decided to rename them sleeper cells and send participants to gitmo without representation or open trial. How do any of us know that this guy is innocent and the muslims in the u.s. were guilty, or vice versa. The difference is that we pretend to have freedom of religion where as Iran doesn't. that makes them intollerant and us hypocrites. I don't know which is worse.

    January 22, 2013 at 12:49 am |
  17. And now, it's time for another installment of "My Invisible Friend Is Better Than Your Invisible Friend!"

    Christians. Muslims. Those idiots deserve each other.

    January 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Actually there is a world of difference between 15th C mentality where YOU DIE or go to trial if you don't buy into my invisible friend, and those that just try to convert you. In the 1950's in the US an open atheist was ostracized regularly. We're really not that far from this crap.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  18. Reality

    One more time, the safe, easy and peaceful solution:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi----–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
    be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    January 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Reality

      From Google Translate: the above in Persian, the official language of Iran:

      از مطالعات آرمسترانگ، رشدی، هیرزی علی، ریچاردسون و بیهقی ----–

      پنج مرحله برای Deprogram 1400 سال اسطوره اسلامی:

      (مراحل را در کمتر از دو دقیقه به پایان برساند به سادگی شگفت انگیز، دقیقه 2 را به صلح و عقلانیت را به بیش از یک میلیارد از دست رفته روح بی بها!)

      آیا شما آماده هستید؟

      با استفاده از "به 77 شاخه از اسلام" ایمان "مجموعه ای امام بیهقی به عنوان یک نقطه شروع وارد شده و در آن، او توضیح می دهد که فضائل ضروری است که منعکس کننده واقعی" ایمان "(ایمان) از طریق آیات قرآنی و احادیث نبوی است." یعنی خلاصه خوبی از اعتقادات اسلامی و قرآن است.

      پنج از 77 شعب:

      "1. اعتقاد به خدا"

      نام دیگر به عنوان خدا، یهوه، زئوس، یهوه، مادر طبیعت، و غیره باید به پاکسازی سلول های عصبی خود شما اضافه شده است.

      »(2) بر این باورند که همه چیز غیر از خدا وجود نداشت. پس از آن، بالا ترین خدا این چیزها را و پس از آن به وجود آمد."

      تکامل و بیگ بنگ یا "GI-B G-قاپیدن" (هنگامی که جهان شروع به بازیافت) قابل قبول تر و "نام دیگر" خدا باید گنجانده شود اگر شما همچنان به عنوان یک "آگاهی CREA-tionist".

      "3. برای اعتقاد به وجود فرشتگان است."

      آیتم اصلی برای پاکسازی نورون. فرشتگان / د vils خلاقیت های افسانه ای از تمدنهای کهن، به عنوان مثال هیت ITES، به توضیح / تعریف وقایع طبیعی، ارتباط با خدایان خود را، پرندگان بزرگ، بادهای ناگهانی، حفظ در شب تاریک، و غیره نه "خیلی / UG نوری wingy thingies" تا کنون بازدید و یا صحبت به محمد، عیسی، مریم یا یوسف یا جو اسمیت است. امروز ما فرشتگان را به عنوان F-airies و "قلع کر LLS" طبقه بندی می. مدرن د vils د مونس د دالین طبقه بندی شده است.

      "4. این باور است که همه کتاب های آسمانی که به پیامبران مختلف فرستاده شد درست هستند. با این حال، به غیر از قرآن، همه ی کتاب های دیگر معتبر نیست دیگر."

      یکی دیگر از آیتم اصلی را حذف کنید. هیچ کتاب نوشته شده است در حالت روح از بهشت ​​(اگر وجود داشته باشد) وجود دارد فقط به عنوان از فرشتگان به نوشتن / انتشار / توزیع آنها وجود دارد. قرآن، OT، NT و غیره به سادگی کتاب های نوشته شده توسط انسان برای انسان است.

      پیامبران توسط کاتبان باستان اختراع شد و به طور معمول به نگه داشتن توده های سازمان ملل متحد تحصیل در خط. امروز ما آنها را برای لحن پیشگویان.

      پیشگویی نیز invali مورخ هدایای طبیعی / خدا / خدا از اراده آزاد و آینده است.

      "5. این باور است که همه پیامبران درست است. با این حال، ما دستور به پیروی از حضرت محمد (ص) (صلح و برکات
      بر او) به تنهایی. "

      محمد به مدت سی روز "ناشتا" (افسانه ماه مبارک رمضان) در یک غار گرم قبل از تماس با خود را برای اولین بار با خدا با نام مستعار خدا و غیره را از طریق "کهکشانی بسیار wingy". حس مشترک خواستار حذف نورون # 5. # 5 است نیز منبع عمده اسلامی یعنی عطف محمد ششم olence "سریع، گرسنگی محور" hallu-cinations را به واقعیت وحشتناک برای کافران است.

      راه رفتن این پنج مرحله است و ما تضمین بهبودی کامل از راه های اسلامی خود را!

      متاسفانه، بسیاری از مفسران مسلمان / خوانندگان در این وبلاگ وجود ندارد به طوری که "دو دقیقه" درمان به کسانی که به آن نیاز دارند. اگر شما یک دوست مسلمان، او را یک کپی و کمک به نجات جهان.

      مراحل مشابه در دسترس هستند در درخواست شما برای deprogramming اسطوره های مسیحیت، یهودیت، بودیسم، هندو و الحاد ..

      January 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  19. Rebel4Christ

    Praying for peace for this pastor. I love to hear about Christians who are so unashamed that they'd risk jail or death to preach Jesus!

    January 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      So you need to pray ? What / Your god is subject to time, and changes ?
      Is not omniscient and doesn't know what he will do and whether you will pray ?
      Grow up.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • Chuck

      Unfortunately there is prophecy of this very thing, those that loose thier heads
      for thier belief in Christ

      we all know who the head choppers are

      January 22, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • sam stone

      It is sort of amusing when missionaries go into foreign lands to tell them that jeebus is better than the native god and end up getting killed. What incredible hubris

      January 22, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • christy

      Sam–haters gonna hate.

      Oh, and Islam is not a "native" religion to Persia. Islam didn't exist until the 7th century.

      Finally, bringing other ideologies to people who only have one way of thinking and believing is a form of enlightenment.

      January 22, 2013 at 6:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Christy: Okay, let's say it was the 7th century when Islam came to Persia. It is the native religion for all (or at least the vast, vast majority) to all living there now.

      It is arrogance telling people that your religion is more right than theirs. Given the religious/political climate that exists there at this time, it is not only arrogant, it is foolish to do so.

      If he is willing to die for his god, then he should accept his fate as an ambassador for Jesus

      January 22, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • Chinh Nguyen

      Lord The Holy Spirit, please grant your Peace and Love to friend (Saeed Abedini and his family).

      Iranian Government, you can't show the world that Islam is a religion of PEACE (by persecuting Christian).
      I dare you to release those Christian in your prison. Let these Christian be free!

      January 22, 2013 at 7:28 am |
  20. Dhimmi Jones

    It's all a show. Typical Muslim trick to get attention. At least he is still alive, many Christians and Churches are being burned in other Muslim nations by the "Religion of peace"...

    January 21, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • yep

      Its an old saying I know but don't throw stones when you live in a glass house.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:37 am |
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About this blog

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.