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. Jeff Stein

    They should put him on a cross and see if his 'god' helps him.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

      Not sure if he d notice....Imagine prison in Iran is pretty grim.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  2. truth be told

    All atheists are liars. Knowledge of this basic Truth puts all their filthy, undermining comments on these blogs in a proper context.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • midwest rail

      As the world's most pointless (and boring) experiment in social media drones on....and on....and on....

      January 22, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truth be told", but your repeated assertions regarding atheism are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "CHRONIC TOTAL FAIL". Perhaps the following book can help you cope with the problem of repeating unfounded assertions:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      January 22, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • cedar rapids

      ah the tbt troll is back. Claims to be christian but in reality just gives christians a bad rep.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • truth be told

      As always, post a great Truth and along come two or three low end bottom feeders with proof.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • == o ==

      Aww, see – that's why they let you go from the Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co..

      Poor disgruntled tooth be told "writer".

      January 22, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'truth be told – As always, post a great Truth and along come two or three low end bottom feeders with proof.'

      ah another lie. Reviling and bearing false witness in the same thread. sigh, such a slippery slope you are on to a warm afterlife. maybe i will ask my christian wife to pray for you, you obviously need all the help you can get.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Pete

      "All atheists are liars."

      More lies from the xtians – 128!

      January 22, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    In a theocratic regime, it is hazardous to preach anything other than the official party line.
    Any religion that becomes a ruling power will do its best to suppress dissent by locking up or executing heretics.
    Those citizens who want to demonstrate their "right-thinking" to the powers that often do so by turning blasphemers over to the Inquisitors. It has happened in America more than once (Salem witch trials, McCarthyism).
    Regardless of one's personal faith, appearance is everything in such an environment. When the local citizenry rubs blue mud in their belly buttons, it is a good idea to do it yourself just as solemly if you want to save your skin.
    Preaching a message contrary to the party line is always dangerous – look what happened to a certain Nazarene carpenter a couple thousand years ago.
    But He knew the price – and so did this pastor.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

      Yup..and the christians wonder why we rail against their intrusion into our government.......

      January 22, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Kat

      Very true on all accounts. I hope he realized the price he could have paid, and not walked blindly by faith. I guess I'm just saying I hope he was accepting of the potential outcomes and not surprised, and I mean that in the best way, I do.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Live4Him

      @Doc Vestibule : In a theocratic regime, it is hazardous to preach anything other than the official party line.

      In a secular society like China, it is also dangerous to preach anything other than the offical party line.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • snowboarder

      live4him, china is not a secular government. it is an atheist government.

      the united states is a secular government.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Maoism bears the markers of religion.
      The deeds of Mao Zedong have been mythologized and he himself deified as the head of that cult of personality.
      But still, you are essentially correct – in a tyrannical regime of any sort, it isn't safe to buck the system.

      An interesting case happening in America right now is that of Andrew Auernheimer.
      He exposed security flaws in the website of one of our Corporate Overlords (AT&T) and is facing 10 years in prison.
      AT&T effectively published the personal information of their customers on their public website and Andrew went about humiliating them for their egregious negligence.
      In his own words: "This is the difference between the prosecutors and FBI agents and I. They wish me utterly destroyed, and have been hounding me for years of my life. They have been surveilling me, by their own admission, since I was 15. You know what I wish for? A world where no man may abridge the liberty of another. Not me, not you, not the FBI, not federal prosecutors. I actually hope they have fulfilling lives, and come to realize the mistake of treating our Const.itution like toilet paper.

      This is a country where if you express ideas that federal agents don’t like you, you will be beaten, imprisoned, or killed."

      January 22, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

      Agree 100% Doc..... Once the supreme court ruled that corporate money was legal in funding politicians, We the people became irrelevant...the price to run here has sailed out of reach for just about anyone, now you need corporate backing- which means their agenda trumps the good of the people.

      Gonvernment is supposed to be by the people for the people......now we have churches and corporations dominating the political landscape. Our founders were exceptional in their vision... they warned us against allowing EXACTLY what is happening.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  4. socialmediacontrol

    There are some places out there in this big world that I will NEVER set foot in...thank you Iran for staying on that list.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  5. brad

    Who cares, idiot kept pressing his luck, trying to spread his lie, and the other lie doesn't like that, so he was arrested. Sorry, but I just can't feel sorry for people who go to these places, and do things knowing they will be arrested if caught. Iran is wrong, but the pastor is a fool.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  6. Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

    Born there, obvious heavy connection to Iran... but one thing is clear: This man failed to take the State/Islam seriously. arrested 9 times before? At some point it should have dawned on him that he was playing the odds, and stay away.

    I have friends with the same "ill be fine, i know the system'" complex....and i have given up trying to sway them.

    I hope he gets clear of this....and if he does, i hope SOMEBODY sits down with the guy and makes sure he's aware of a few things...because if there is 11th time....pretty sure there wont be a 12th.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

      Sorry bump my number up by one..been arrested 10 times iin the past.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  7. snowboarder

    when religion insinuates itself into government, liberty is the first casualty.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Live4Him

      Atheism and humanism are also religions, so it is impossible to keep religion out of politics. This is why the Consitution prohibits interferance (for and against) in a person's religious beliefs. Unfortunately, America is becoming the atheist nation – where any religion except for Christianity is acceptable.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • midwest rail

      More "persecution" nonsense from L4H.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • snowboarder

      live4him, knock off the blathering about your fake christian persecution. as soon as other religions get a voice the christians whine incessantly.

      humanism is not a religion, it is simply a philosophy.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      More than 3/4 of the US populace professes to be Christian. How exacly is it not acceptable?
      And for the millionth time:
      The prefix "A" = Lack of.
      Theism = Belief in god(s)
      A + Theism = Lack of belief in gods.
      It is a negative statement that describes only what one does NOT believe and therefore cannot be a religion.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • captain america

      It is at this juncture that it should be noted that the pus filled maggot known as doc vestipuke is not an American and as such contributes less to our American way of life than an honest American dog when it relieves itself. There's your sign.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Cap'n Troll of Multiple Monikers
      Your rhetoric becomes ever more floridly victriolic.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "vitriolic" – whoops.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • californiafats

      REALLY?? because this very country was founded on religious principles

      January 22, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

      @ Live4him

      wanting religion to be a religion doesnt make it so. Atheists use science to show how absurd religion is..... science, by its very nature, compiles enormous amouts of facts.... one thing dicovered in one lab is put to the test in several others around the world...remember the 'cold fusion ' discovery in Utah? ... it was shot down when it couldnt be reproduced in several other labs. What im getting at is this: science is about actual proven fact.

      The religious dodge and weave, play all sorts of word games....all to try and keep a lucrative scam running.....
      we ask forr facts..proof..you can only point to the bible..theres no real evidence at all.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Pastor Rasaun O. Sheet

      err SCIENCE to be a religion..sorry

      January 22, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • snowboarder

      californiafats wrote " this very country was founded on religious principles"

      that is plainly false. exactly where in our const itution or the federalist papers does it define these religious principles.

      this nation was founded upon the principle of personal liberty, which is the opposite of religious

      January 22, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  8. Bruce H.

    This is what happens when religion turns into "politics and power".

    January 22, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Kristina

      This is not "religion turning into politics and power." It is politics and power being used to abuse religious freedom.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Billy

      You missed the point, Kristina. Let me guess, you're an Evangelical.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  9. Godoflunaticscreation

    Apparently muslim terrorists aren't the only ones who prefer martyrdom.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  10. PTBarnum Boy

    Sorry folks, but I think I'd have found a better place to practice my religion.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  11. Jim

    If this guy is stupid enough to go to Iran and preach he gets what he deserves.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Bruce H.

      He was not preaching. He was wanting to help orphans that this country does do a good job at because of the Muslim religion.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  12. Science

    Published on Oct 13, 2012

    How the Universe works – Birth of the Earth
    How the earth formed? How the earth like planets formed?
    What are the odds to find earth like conditions elsewhere in the Universe?
    find the answers in the film
    Science & Technology

    The universe did not need god(s}/religion to create the earth, watch video.
    So evolution wins hands down, it now time for god(s) to get the hell out of the way OK ..
    Thanks for watching.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Bruce H.

      Too many "could be's", "possibly", "maybe", "what if's" and "Billions and billions of years" with no evidence for this to be science. You believe in fairy tales.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • richunix


      It is far better than "Simon Say's"

      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 9:06 am |
    • Bruce H.

      This is Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed


      January 22, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'Too many "could be's", "possibly", "maybe", "what if's" and "Billions and billions of years" with no evidence for this to be science. You believe in fairy tales.'

      no fairly sure there is plenty of science behind it. The ones that believe in fairy tales are the ones that claims magical beings and spell casting made the universe.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Science

      Back fill for the earth.

      Published on Jan 15, 2013
      Over 60,000 years ago, the first modern humans—people physically identical to us today—left their African homeland and entered Europe, then a bleak and inhospitable continent in the grip of the Ice Age. But when they arrived, they were not alone: the stocky, powerfully built Neanderthals had already been living there for hundred of thousands of years. So what happened when the first modern humans encountered the Neanderthals? Did we make love or war? That question has tantalized generations of scholars and seized the popular imagination. Then, in 2010, a team led by geneticist Svante Paabo announced stunning news. Not only had they reconstructed much of the Neanderthal genome—an extraordinary technical feat that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago—but their analysis showed that "we" modern humans had interbred with Neanderthals, leaving a small but consistent signature of Neanderthal genes behind in everyone outside Africa today. In "Decoding Neanderthals," NOVA explores the implications of this exciting discovery. In the traditional view, Neanderthals differed from "us" in behavior and capabilities as well as anatomy. But were they really mentally inferior, as inexpressive and clumsy as the cartoon caveman they inspired? NOVA explores a range of intriguing new evidence for Neanderthal self-expression and language, all pointing to the fact that we may have seriously underestimated our mysterious, long-vanished human cousins.

      Education works BEST !
      So does your DNA, take a blood test and figure it out !
      Simple to do OK !
      To many Adams and Eves in gene pool for the bible's creation story.
      Courts have ruled can't teach creation as fact in public shools in the US.
      Means evolution WINS hands dfown, it is time for god(s) religion to get tghe HELL out of the way OK

      January 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Science

      Thank you to the National Centre For Science Education (NCSE) for providing this information.

      For years to come, the lessons from Dover will continue to have a profound impact on how science is viewed in our society and how it is taught in the classroom


      January 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  13. LostinSLC

    I think a 1,000 foot wall should be built around that country....what a bunch of hypocrites.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • sam stone

      you want to build a 1,000 foot wall around a country the size of iran? how do you proposed to pay for it?

      January 22, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • growsome

      Better yet...build a 20 foot high 5 feet think concrete wall around the U.S.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  14. Badly-Bent

    Such uncivilized behavior from the so-called "cradle of civilization?"

    January 22, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • sam stone

      Apparently, ancient religions thrive on this type of stuff. Consider the troubles going on in Jerusalem, the place the big three monotheistic religions hold as holy

      January 22, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  15. Sylvia E.

    This man is from Iran. He is a former Muslem. He knows the cruelty of the government and religious leaders. He obviously wanted to be arrested and they accommadated him. I'm surprised that he hasn't been stoned to death or hanged. He put his wife and children in danger by taking them to Iran. He was foolish and is paying for it. So is his family. If they let him out of prison and send him back to the United States, he'll make up a reason to go back to Iran to get arrested again. I feel for his family, not for him. He made this choice and he may have to fie for it.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • NII

      Thanks for your infinite insightful wisdom and compassion.

      January 22, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  16. Chedar

    There are three tiers of practice of the mind. . The 1st tier are faith based group of people. The 2nd tier are the sort of in between and the 3rd tier are scientific understanding of the mind and consciousness. The more highly educate you are, the less they believe in God

    January 22, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • NII

      Typical Atheist lie.

      January 22, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • KC

      A highly educated person understands that there are things they will never understand. Being educated doesn't mean you have no faith.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • JL

      well thats not true, even among scientists, and whats your point?

      January 22, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • richunix


      Atheist don't lie, they have nothing to lie about....As for your New Testament, look up the word “Pseudepigraphic”

      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 9:10 am |
    • californiafats

      wow, that is about the dumbest and out of reality statement i have seen all week

      January 22, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  17. George

    Why would anyone keep going back to a country where you know there is great danger and you will be arrested and probably tortured? Hello! This man has a wife and children to be concerned about; it's time to let the past, and mom and dad go.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • SB1790

      That's my thoughts exactly. Why keep going back, especially if you've already been warned a few times that you're not welcome. I would have stopped after the 1st or 2nd arrest. I understand the man's parents still live there, but I think I'd send them some money for a laptop and Skype or something.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • ben c

      Because there really is no danger going there. It is a beautiful country. Just follow and respect thier laws and you have nothing to fear. Do not believe everything you read in the news.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  18. Toast n Butter

    Iran is the toilet of the world................and it needs flushed..................

    January 22, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • sam stone

      never been to east st. louis?

      January 22, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  19. Oh Well

    What could be expected from barbaric, backwards and vile islamic animals?

    January 22, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Its the same as I expect from barbaric, backwards and vile christian (or any religion for that matter) animals

      January 22, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • sam stone

      Oh Well: Fvck you and your bigotry

      January 22, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  20. myfeelings

    I always though religions to be a way for personal improvement; A way for people to search for a higher spiritual knowledge, understanding, forgiveness, kindness, etc. Islamists and Muslims should not fall into a religion category, not even a cult. It seems more like a brain washing extremist growing hate against everything different to their point of view.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • sam stone

      religion is about control. religion is divisive. if you want higher spiritual knowledge, eat a handful of magic mushrooms

      January 22, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Mo

      Well said, it's the Islam is the only religion in the world that teach hate to everyone, Islam is so week that its built on making people fear of converting so they might killed, it's not religion .. it's a cult with evil believes

      January 22, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • thatguydownsouth

      He must be thinking about the eastern religions. Buddhist, Hinduism etc arent about control. The Abrahamic religions are.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • sam stone

      "Islam is so week that its built on making people fear of converting so they might killed, it's not religion .. it's a cult with evil believes"

      As opposed to the death cult that is Christianity?

      January 22, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Canada

      Sam Stone, I'd love to meet you face to face.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • sam stone

      Why is that, Canada?

      January 22, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • sam stone

      Come on, Canada, speak up

      January 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      Cat got your tongue?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      pretty much what i thought. another mouthy cvnt

      January 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
1 2 3 4
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.