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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. lol??

    Just remember what Hillary is tryin' to tell the world.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:50 am |
  2. TL

    No, the world should not stand up and protest to bail him out.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • lol??

      You must be an American, tellin' the world how to act and all that sort of thing.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Minister Mike

      Wow, Just like the world didn't stand up for Jesus.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • realbuckyball

      Jebus was exected by standing ordser of the Pax Romana. "The world" had nothing to do with it. He was a trouble maker, who disturbed the peace. Everyone in Jerusalem during the occupation who did that was summarily executed, with no trial. The rest is myth. Sorry Mikey. Get over it.

      January 28, 2013 at 4:35 am |
    • DP

      Wrong he was not killed under Roman law... Governer pilate wanted to let jesus go. The jews wouldnt have it cause the laws that were written at.that time under the pharisees(that contridicted the torah itself) jesus violated. Thats the second extremely ignore statement youve made about scripture so far.. I suggesst you read

      January 28, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  3. Steve

    Maybe Pat Robertson could do his own dirty work and start an orphanage in some islamist state himself.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • lol??

      Why pick on him? Just because his daddy was a PUblic Servant that knew how to live off the fat of the land?

      January 28, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  4. lol??

    It's all a big misunderstanding. Iran's gubmint passed the law without reading it and the people are stuck with it.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  5. George C.

    So, he got jailed many times in the past and received multiple threats already , and yet he kept going back there expecting a different result. A classic definition of insanity and stupidity. Religion turns your brain into mush.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Minister Mike

      Jesus kept going back for us. We have no right or authority to judge the pastor on why he kept going back, as far as we should see it, he had valid reasons.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:46 am |
    • lol??

      Athena and the educratists will do that to ya.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:46 am |
  6. Minister Mike

    Obeying the laws of the land is one thing and Obeying God's laws are another. Yes, we are required to obey the laws of the land except when it conflicts the God's laws. Christians are to spread God's word throughout the world, no law of the land supersedes this. That being said, there isn't a single Government by man that God supports regardless of what anybody thinks. All man made governments are controlled by Lucifer (Satan) in one way or another, that is why he was able to offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Therefore it's no wonder why Iran and other governments do what they do. The less Christians in an area, the more control Satan has and the more he can deceive people. My God bless the pastor and give him strength in this time of persecution.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Hindu false stinky pot Mithraism of false Judaism and false Islamic followers of Christ and Jebus

      How sad. In 2013 people actually belive in talking snakes, and evil angels. Hahaha.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  7. Alien

    The World Is Getting More & More Hostile. There Are Too Many Killings, Deaths & Wars. Mankind Is A Brutal Beast!!
    If I Could, Id Abolish All Humans Forever & Give Earth Back To The Animals.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  8. RLTJ's

    If there is one law and he violated the that law, then he is in trouble. He can only ask for compassion if he was ignorant of the law. A law is a law. Unless it is repelled it stays a law. A mockery of justice is if a law is ignored or set aside excepting some people. That would be putting some people above the law.

    That they have a law that does not recognize universal human rights, that's a different issue.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:27 am |
  9. sasss31

    There is something called the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS which some of you appeasers to evil seem to forget about. Regardless if he put himself into a risky situation, he committed no crime. All of us who value human dignity, human freedom and human free thought must stand against the heinous actions of the Islamic Republic and not only stand with this man but with all the prisoners of conscience inside of prisons inside of Iran. The only reason that this man did not get the noose is because he is an American. Free this man, free Iran. We must stand for the values of humanity and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Bet

      Then let the UN and Pat Robertson deal with Iran.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  10. Whatever

    What an idiot. He has been arrested at least 10 times there already. If you go to other countries, you have to respect their laws.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  11. HotAirAce

    Tough sh!t. A delusional believer knowingly broke the well known laws about delusional beliefs of a sovereign state. Fuck 'im.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  12. Lost

    Free this man,at once. He committed no crime. What kind of religious leadership pretends to promote peace, yet at the same time deliver persecution? This is among the highest forms of blasphemy. What are they afraid of? Are regimes such as this so desperate for control that it would sink this low? What if predominantly non-Muslim countries tried and convicted people who practiced Islam or another religion? There would be such an outcry of injustice. Why can't they see reasonably the error of their ways...and why do theocratic governments continue to flourish on vengeance?

    January 28, 2013 at 12:18 am |
  13. JAN

    While it's wrong to jail someone for expressing religious views, there is the point that missionaries seek not only to enlighten in regards their own religion, but in so doing they seek to destroy the spiritual/religious aspect of another culture. Witness what Christian missionaries did to Native Americans. I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who have some righteous idea about the superiority of their beliefs.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Steve

      "I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who have some righteous idea about the superiority of their beliefs."

      Are you referring to the Iranians or the Christian missionary?

      January 28, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  14. sanfranciscan

    Not very smart. Iran is an Islamic Republic. Islam rules over all religions. There's NO freedom of religion there since the Islamic Republics creation in 1979. He set himself up for imprisonment

    January 28, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  15. LAW OF THE LAND

    Keep him locked up and serve his due time for violating the law of the land in which HE chose to step on (repeatedly). You got caught..YOUR chance now to die for what you think you believe in and your family live in pain and misery cause of your own selfishness (and some fool here in the states that coxed you in to going back),,,there are many places in the US that you could have gone to “spread the word” and have the doors slammed on your face…. But you would be able to go home every night and hug your family… your boy……

    January 28, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • sasss31

      You are a lowly non-human. There is something called the universal declaration of human rights. Shame on you for not having a moral backbone. This man committed no crime. He simply professed his faith. Shame on you.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  16. Son of God

    There should be freedom of religion everywhere. And Iran violated the basics of that law. What if America jails all muslims? The world will cry abuse.!!! Free the pastor!!!!!

    January 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Ajay

      sounds like a great idea. US shoudl jail all the muslims if it wants to sink to the same levels as Iran. Having said that, the law in Iran are pretty clear, whether or not you agree with them! He should have preached his beliefs in a place which allows him to do that. Simple.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • SHrUb...gOd wIlls iT,,,,

      we ve done it before..Ja panese Americans 1942 took everything they had and threw them in camps , Native Americans: treated even worse because they were 'godless heathens' – killed , starved and did our damnedest to christianize them...took everything they had..threw them into camps. And dont for a minute think it cant happen here again....

      January 28, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  17. sasss31

    Another human rights travesty. Shame on the appeasers of evil in this comments section. This man was arrested because of his faith. And the only reason that he didn't get the death penalty is because he is a U.S. citizen. Regimes that don't respect the rights of people such as this case are grave threats to humanity. We need to always stand for freedom and democracy; and may the end be near for the heinous, fascist regime of the Islamic Republic. And yes, I speak as an Iranian-American and an atheist. And guess what? I would be executed in Iran under these brutal madmen. Once again, shame on the apologists for evil.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  18. LAW OF THE LAND

    The American Center for Law and Justice/ (supports terrorist organizations) is a big joke... taking money from donors and pass it off to Israeli organization to help and bring harm to Palestine people…they operate in the US, but spend their days attacking the very government that provides for them a safe place to live… try moving your office to Isreal,,,,if you hate the President and our way of governance Then move on…we won’t miss you

    January 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  19. hans

    he probably went there trying to promote Christianity. he was asking for it pretty much.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  20. LAW OF THE LAND

    He (DA) got what he deserved, When you go to another country you have to abide by their laws and customs… if not you will be punished their way…State Dept does not have time to babysit USC’s that run amuck doing what they want than as soon as they get in to trouble they try and waive that Great US passport in hopes of having Seal team 6 rescue them…See you in 8 years,,, gives you some time to pray or something….

    January 27, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Steve

      No one deserves to be arrested for preaching their faith. That you think otherwise tells us you are backwards and belong in the Dark Ages.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:01 am |
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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.