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. GAW

    I love the smell of trolling in the morning.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • mec

      Interesting intolerance and racism. Makes me just WISH I was such a strong person!

      January 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  2. Chris

    How many chances does this guy need? They don't want him there. He has no fundamental "right" to be there. As we tell our kids, choices have consequences.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Peter Bishop

      Good thing you weren't advising Dr. King. Would you have told him to give up?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I think the point is that if a person is willing to persevere, the consequences might be dire. Dr. King's story is a perfect example, yes, seeing as he was killed for his unflagging commitment to his cause.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm |


    January 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Bill

      Even under the strongest microscope, when you look into the brain can you see a thought? Are you denying they exist just because you can't see it?

      January 28, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  4. Harry J

    When the Hubble telescope finds "Heaven" then I just might be a believer. However, even looking into space for a zillion miles, there is nothing but rocks. It is my firm belief that religious folks are either stupid or making their way through life without heavy lifting and in some cases, using one's perceived power to take advantage of those who can't think for themselves!

    January 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Mental frameworks are quite resilient. The god and the belief may be laughably ridiculous, but the mind's model is MORE real than any physical object considered by it, for that is how "reality" is perceived. Perhaps it is not to our species advantage that natural selection has made our intellectual schemata are so enduring.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • up1652

      How many other dimensions have you seen. Is it possible to accept that there might be something you don't know ?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      See what I mean?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • lol??

      Luk 21:26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

      January 30, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  5. mec

    Evolution is obviously fake. Talking snakes are relevant. Christianity is real, despite hoards of logical evidence and cognitive reasoning. Christians are smart people for believing in something simply because they are told to believe. It takes a strong minded person to be docile.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • mec

      Ha. Copying my name huh? Again, more childish tactics by CNN posters. 🙁

      January 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Corpo

      Childish as in believing in talking sankes and other wizardry?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • mec

      All science is wizardry until proven otherwise. Some of our early scientific discoveries came from Christians wanting to know God's world better. Plus, if you actually knew science, the realm of God is actually quite feasible. I would suggest reading about the 10th dimension to know more. I know it's a stretch to ask a CNN poster to read something other than hatemail, but just give it a whirl. If you can see how it could relate to the spiritual realm, good for you. If you can, well, then your mind hasn't developed enough yet.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
      • Q

        Yup cause turning water into wine is pure science

        September 27, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Bet

      Some of our early scientific discoveries came from Christians wanting to know God's world better.

      How'd that work out for Galileo?

      Christianity has tried to stifle scientific progress, because educated people no longer need to believe in things like the earth as the center of the universe or genocide by rain.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  6. NorthVanCan

    At the end of the day they are all victims of religion . People that are gullible and fall for lies will always exist. Best to educate children of the trap that is religion.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • mec

      Huh, my science degree and my religious combination would disagree with you.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Bet

      @ mec

      My science degree can beat up your science degree.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  7. fedup

    Organized religion........ the root of ALL evil

    January 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • up1652

      Sure, sure, just ask Stalin and Pol Pot.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • GAW

      Human beings the root of all evil.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • mec

      I would actually say elitism is more the root. Mainly because it exists both in religion and in the lack of religion. (As CNN atheists demonstrate continually.)

      Get rid of elitism and both sides actually benefit.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  8. mec

    It's amazing how many "non-believers" flock to the belief section to spread their anger, even when someone is suffering. Go back to the main page where the rest of the non-believers live. Leave the Belief section to those who actually believe something.

    However, I shouldn't discount the chance that CNN created this section specifically so that atheists can slam religious people in a forum designed for it.

    Anyway, I wish the administration would dedicate as much energy to getting this American back as they are dedicating to disarming Americans.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Don't Believe in Bigfoot? Explain Patrick Ewing

      You are a mental midget.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Swimming

      They should not spend a dime on idiots abroad. I would welcome a statement that says if you travel to the middle east its the YOYO protocol. Your on your own.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • GAW

      Most comments are by trolls with nothing to contribute but name calling and copied and pasted posts. They think just like their religious fundamentalist counterparts.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • NorthVanCan

      Always the conspiracy with religious people. Makes sense if you consider nothing they believe can be proved .

      January 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Harry J

      Well, there is a lot of turmoil in this world created by and sustained by religious beliefs. Don't belive me? Try opening your mind and eyes!

      January 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • mec

      Why do all CNN atheists believe that all religious people go through life with their eyes closed??? I mean, you can't find a more bigoted group of people. I, and a large number of believers are very aware of what goes on in the world and how the world was created. Stop your self-superiority for a small time and you might learn something about how the "other" side really thinks.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Gerry Daley

      How long have you had this martyr complex? The nutcases in Iran and the nutcases who are part of Pat Robert$son'$ organization deserve each other.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • mec

      I would say the same for any elitist atheist and Hitler if that was the case. And we all know what happened to Hitler.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      I don't care what this clown's religious beliefs are. He is an American citizen who traveled to Iran. He was stupid. If a group of granola eating and Birkenstock wearing flower children from UC Berkeley visited Iran, I'd have the same contempt for them.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Bet

      This is a public forum and anyone can post. Too bad if you don't like it.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  9. Astra Navigo

    Fundies takin' on Fundies – sort of like two kids in the schoolyard getting into a fight over which one's Imaginary Friend can beat up the other one.


    (Yes. The root-cause is Fundamentalism – and religion of *any* stripe – best we do away with all of that nonsense before it does away with *us*....)

    January 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • DaLe

      You mean nuke-fundies vs. nuke-fundies? Yeah, a pity for the rest of us, isn't it?

      January 27, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  10. NorthVanCan

    I have seen these types before, American Christian Pastors in Mexico committing cultural genocide against native indians in the name of "god". Makes me sick. I have no sympathy for this Dude . I could see his presence being unwelcome, and him being clueless as to why.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • mec

      You do realize that him, "evangelizing" may have been a lie by the Iranian government right? I suppose critical thinking is outside the realm of CNN posters.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • up1652

      So you have seen genocide eh ? Not likely. That means death you know. More likely they were feeding a village. Hate much ?

      January 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  11. brich22

    The ACLJ has been pushing very hard for the same type theocracy in the USA. He is such a damn hypocrite.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  12. Tim

    These people are always trying to shove Jesus down someone's throat. He's lucky he wasn't in Saudi Arabia.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Astra Navigo


      January 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • mec

      Yes, he deserves prison time for such atrocities. Are all atheists such haters and unsympathetic elitists?

      January 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  13. nik green

    According to the US State Department, as many as 300,000 Christians live in Iran. The main church groups in Iran consist of the following: Armenian Apostolic Church of Iran (between 110,000[2] and 250,000 adherents, Assyrian Church of the East of Iran (about 11,000 adherents), Chaldean Catholic Church of Iran (about 7,000 Assyrian adherents), and various other denominations, some examples being Presbyterian, the Assyrian Evangelical Church, Pentecostal, including the Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Jama'at-e Rabbani (the Iranian Assemblies of God churches), and the Anglican Diocese of Iran.

    Iran has the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel, as many as 10,000. There are 20 synagogues in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

    Clearly this pastor was sentenced for reasons other than, or in addition to, what was stated in this article.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Swimming

    It is well known that Iran does not have freedom of religion and will prosecute those that "attack" their beliefs. If you chose to go there and spread your religious beliefs you are going to be arrested and convicted. This is common knowledge and shows up in travel reports with warnings etc etc. You sir are an idiot that puts his "beliefs" above his family. This is the ultimate failure as a man. You bring people into your life and have failed them miserably. This is not about Iran. They make no bones about it. This is simply about an Idiot abroad. Life lessons.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Astra Navigo

      "This is simply about an Idiot abroad. Life lessons."

      Again – agreed....

      January 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  15. pazke

    I think it's pretty well established that the Iranian government doesn't play fair. So are we really to be surprised by this? I think he knew the risk each time he returned to Iran, and although I do feel for his family, he probably has himself to blame.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm |


    January 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  17. Luis Wu

    Anybody dumb enough to be associated with Pat Robertson deserves to go to jail. The guy is more than stupid for going to Iran in the first place and for trying to convert people there to his ignorant beliefs. Hope he rots in jail. What stupid person.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • RickInNY

      Ah, so a guy who was born there, and whose parent's still live there, is stupid for going back home for a visit. Gotcha. Imbicile.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • JDavis

      Even in America it is illegal to teach children about your religious beliefs if such beliefs have been made illegal by the state. Polygamy, for instance.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Astra Navigo

      "Anybody dumb enough to be associated with Pat Robertson deserves to go to jail."

      Harsh – but yet again; agreed....

      January 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • GAW

      I just love these atheist extremist types. They give atheists a bad name.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  18. Akira

    8 years. Huh.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • JDavis

      A light sentence, by US standards.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  19. Seyedibar

    I find the article amusing. Personally, I do not believe that selling lies to people should be a protected right.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • jon

      what lies would those be?

      January 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • ???????

      The creation story adam and eve maybe. According to DNA to many Adams and Eves in gene pool for that story to be true.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The adam and eve thing, the noahs ark falacy, Jonah and the whale, etc.etc.etc

      January 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Astra Navigo

      "I do not believe that selling lies to people should be a protected right."

      Agreed most vehemently....

      January 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  20. Reality


    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Reality

      For those in Iran who have access to CNN's Belief blog:

      The above translated into Persian the official language of Iran using Google Translate:

      و منفی بدنام فرشته همچنان به انتقام حماقت بر جهان

      جو اسمیت مورونی خود را. (به عنوان آیا M. رامنی)

      "واپسین روز دوم مانند M. رامنی نیز بر این باورند که مایکل فرشته آدم (اولین انسان) بود که او فانی، و جبرئیل را بر روی زمین به عنوان نوح زندگی می کردند."

      شاهدان یهوه عیسی / مایکل که جبرئیل فرشته فرشته، اولین موجود ایجاد شده توسط خدا؛

      محمد تا به حال جبرئیل خود را (این "قلع kerbell" در اطراف کردم).

      عیسی و خانواده اش / تا به حال مایکل، گابریل، و شیطان، و دومی که شیطان مدرن و روز مجنون. (به عنوان نشانی از BO و خانواده اش) (به عنوان انجام بایدن و رایان)

      اسطوره ابراهیم، موسی، فرشته خود را از مرگ و دیگر هیچ namers "را به انجام کار کثیف خود و یا سایر وظایف همه فن حریف است.

      محققان معاصر مربوط به کتاب مقدس و مذهبی این "خیلی wingie / بوق دمیدن thingies" به شمع اسطوره تنزل است. ما باید همان را شامل حذف تمام ارجاعات به آنها را راهنمای عمل دینی ما انجام دهد. انجام این کار به پیامبر (ص) / سود / پیشگویی وضعیت از این بنیانگذاران و از بین بردن قرار داده و آنها را در جایی که تعلق دارند از انسان ها به عنوان ساده درست مثل بقیه ما.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Kieth T. Maxwell

      They were aliens.... Tha "halos"? Space helmets.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • gary

      Did you misspell your name dude?

      January 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
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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.