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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. bostontola

    This is what happens in a theocracy. Any religion's laws are extremely outdated. Any society that rigorously prosecutes them is destined to fall behind secular states. It's their choice, but they will continue to fall behind.

    January 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  2. Marden

    it is time to start exterminating all christians and jews

    January 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Freddy

      your "fiery" exit strategy is only a precurser to your eternity in Hades.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Freddy

      can we get an FBI profile started on this guy please? Marden is a Jihadist.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • John Geheran

      What planet are you from? Muslims have been exterminating Jews, Christians and other non-believers for centuries. And making good progress.

      January 28, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Marden

    He shall rot in prison. All christians should, all evangelists, all sionist shall die.

    January 28, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Melchizadek

      THE angel of the Lord, was the person of Jesus Christ, who blessed Ishmael as a prosperous nation, but NOT as the line for salvation. Mohammed and Gabriel bow down to Jesus, they are no one compared to God,, the essence of God who became a man for atonement of souls, who is creator and redeemer. Muslims visualize who Jesus is in a polytheistic manner, this is INCORRECT. God has 3 personages, and remains one God.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • bostontola

      Nuts and trolls on both ends.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • John Geheran

      You forgot to include the rest of us non-believers. Allah and his Prophet would not be pleased at your omission.

      January 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  4. I AM

    If any law states that a person cant practice Christianity openly, this law is NOT VALID and should be vigorously undermined at all times. There is no such law. We do not obey Satan. That would be death reigning.

    January 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  5. personalselfishcoward

    I am so thankful that I can come to these blogs in the freedom of speech and freedom of religion. however, since Iran has these laws where the freedom of speech and religion are not tolerated, I would be upset had this man been a same gender prefrence practicing type, but since he is just a christian I am going to applaud irans tough laws and stand behind iran that their laws deserve to be obeyed. na na na na poo pooooo, I live in the usa. you should obey the law you dumb christian. i am an opinionated example for you all.

    January 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • leader61

      ha. funny.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  6. The Mayor of Medinah

    That’s because they think their God is better than hos God….. Someday we will all learn that God is God and we are all of his children, and he doesn’t care as long as we respect each other for who we are.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • kirk1

      all governments are corrupt and will do whatever they want behind closed doors, whether it is water boarding or what ever, then they will lie or do the political two step and rattle on to avoid the truth. it will only get worse.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • leader61

      Nobody comes to God except through Jesus Christ. Christ is the sacrifice for sins making atonement before a HOLY God.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Nobody comes to god....because god does not exist.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • leader61

      Thanks for your atheistic evangelism Cranium --- ooh we should throw you in jail.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • leader61

      Robert – you are sharing your faith. We must put you in jail.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      leader?
      Too bad. I said what I said well within the boundaries of the US, where I have the right. If I went to Iran and said it, I know they would trow me in jail. I'm not stupid enough to do that. This moron was.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • leader61

      And he may die, but at least he has something so valuable it is worth dying for. And you, what do you have? Video games? Time to really live, Cranny.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • leader61

      He is living a full life. Gonna play games, RC? Maybe something to distract your fevered mind?

      January 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • kirk1

      passing bye a beautiful house, you ask the person standing in front of it, who built it? he turns to you and says, no one! thats impossible, all homes are built by someone, they just dont happen by accident. if that is the case who made the beautiful home we live on? it is so much more complex then the shacks we live in, soon the owner will reclaim it and evict the trash tenants that are destroying it and say , no one built it.

      January 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Bob

      rc is a pathetic individual that originated from a 3rd world country, it thinks it gets to pick and choose where human rights are applicable

      January 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • kirk1

      a teacher says to the class, see out the window the trees? they reply yes, she asks, see the homes? yes. she asks do you see god? they reply no. she then says that is because there is no god.
      a student asks if it is ok to ask some questions, he tell the class to look at the teacher and asks, see the teachers eyes? they reply yes. see the teachers nose? yes. see the teachers brains? they reply no. the student then says that is because the teacher doesnt have one!

      January 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      fuhrer61
      What an insulting little pr!ck of a christian you are. I don't waste my time with childish things like video games and religion. This idiot deserves prison. Too bad if you disagree, why don't you go get him back. Good luck with that

      January 28, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  7. Donald

    For all of you who are bashing him for talking about his beliefs.... How about we charge you, hold you in a prison away from your friends and family, torture you, bring up false charges and then sentience you to 8 years in prison for speaking your mind on here? Stop being hypocritical. No one should have their human rights taken away just because of what they believe or don't believe in.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      When you break the law, you get punished. He knew the laws and chose to break them. He deserves what he got.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Exactly

      The point here is that he had his "rights" taken away because his faith differed from those in the country he was in. Knowing this was a possibility, he still chose to go there over and over trying to convince those people that his faith was the correct one. Bottom line is he got what he deserved by putting his faith ahead of reason. The blind trying to lead others who are also blind.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Scott

      @Donald
      I grew up in a country and a culture where I was abused, ostracized and tortured for talking about my thoughts or asking the wrong questions.
      The country was America
      The culture was christian

      January 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  8. jeff

    Could CNN possibly post this in an even lower priority spot..maybe some bimbo holding a gold statue on the front page would be better..just saying

    January 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • leader61

      I totally agree. I am so tired of news like this (HUMAN RIGHTS) getting the back page. But if it were LGBT it'd be FRONT PAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  9. Wes

    Maybe now Christians will know what it's like to be persecuted sence that is all they do here in America good for Iran they don't want a bunch of hatefull warmongers in there country

    January 28, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Moose

      Why were they there to begin with??? theres enough people who need help in the U.S.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Tothepoint

      What are you talking about? Christians are prosecuted in the United States more than any other religion. What fantasy newsource do you read? What nonChristians are put in jail for their religion? Name one. You can't as their are none. Christians are the target of the far left who like to abuse Christians or anyone who is associated with Christians to put themseleves up on a pedestal as some kind of a savior (we are dealing with the Left's out of control ego), coupled with their sadistic nature.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      And christians do the most discriminating and prosecuting of any religion in this country.

      Cry some more.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • kirk1

      true christians would stay out of politics to start with. only one government (kingdom) that will bring trues peace earth wide.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • okkk

      "The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners."
      – Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand

      January 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  10. Skorpio

    Applying the same punishment to the AYATOLLAH would drastically reduce human rights abuses.

    January 28, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  11. John

    Why do people complain about religion on this article? Last 3 biggest killers, Mao, Stalin, Hilter, all not religious. Want a world Without God and religion? Go live in North Korea. All men are corruptible, thus we need Jesus. Let one without sin cast the first stone.

    January 28, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      Hitler was christian...sorry.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Ashley

      " Mao, Stalin, Hilter, "

      Yawn.....Hitler was a Christian. It was not their lack of belief in a god which drove them and motivated them. The fanatical and uncompromising political, racial and nationalistic dogmas which animated them were not the product of any religious belief (or lack thereof), but political beliefs taken to excess. Thus, while Stalin and Mao did not do their deeds in the name of atheism, but in the name of their own dogmatic variant of Marxism.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • okkk

      "The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners."
      – Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand

      January 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."

      Oscar Wilde

      Quoting anyone doesn't make what he said a fact, nitwit.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • christianity is just the same as North Korea

      In North Korea :
      They tell you which thoughts are good and which thoughts are bad
      They tell you every other kind of Communisum is bad and non communists are evil in carnet.
      They tell you that their words are THE TRUTH and because of that you must believe what they tell you and to question it is a CRIME AGAINST THE STATE!
      They tell you that you will be horribly punished for the rest of your life if you don’t do what they tell you, believe what they say or think wrong thoughts

      I Christianity:
      They tell you which thoughts are good and which thoughts are bad
      They tell you every other kind of christianity is bad and non christians are evil in carnet.
      They tell you that their words are THE TRUTH and because of that you must believe what they tell you and to question it is a SIN AGAINST GOD!!!
      They tell you that you will be horribly punished for the rest of eternity if you don’t do what they tell you, believe what they say or think wrong thoughts

      January 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  12. Michael

    No matter what what iran is trying to become, will surely turn agaist them.

    January 28, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  13. John

    Yes he broke a law he felt worth breaking to help people experience the love of God. Yes he will pay a heavy price, but his reward will be great. And his suffering will bring glory to God.

    January 28, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Viv

      right on!

      January 28, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Damocles

      Fairly sick that a deity requires suffering.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Colin D

      Of course God requires suffering and sacrifice, a place in heaven must be earned, all good things must be earned, life is a short test to earn the right to heaven or hell, which last forever, if I am wrong and there is no afterlife, I can be happy I lived a good life and took care of others

      January 28, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • The Truth

      " if I am wrong and there is no afterlife, I can be happy I lived a good life and took care of others" all while lying to myself and others, because let's face it, lying to yourself feels good.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      tt. You should know.

      January 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  14. Buffalo, NY

    The pastor is jailed for helping orphans? What is wrong in helping the orphans? This is atrocious and this kind of persecution must STOP.

    January 28, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      This guy broke the law in Iran. He deserves jail.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • duvet

      rc- must be feeling nice to enjoy your religious freedom? what a pathetic human being you are! this is a flagrant violation of basic human rights

      January 28, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Pete from 716

      A comment from Buffalo! Nice to see, just wanted to say hi, sorry i didn't have much to add to the discussion but i agree with your comment. The persecution is completely political and is ridiculous.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      duvet
      Listen you bleeding heart moron. This guy knowingly went to a country where he has been arrested many times, and continued to do the same thing. He is an idiot. He broke the local laws, he deserves local punishment. Sure it would be nice if Iran respected individual rights, but they don't and this moron knew it, and still went. He was asking for it and deserves it.
      Calling me pathetic is just insulting, and oh so christian of you . I do enjoy my freedom, and I don't go to Iran and spread religion. He asked for it , he got it.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  15. matt

    Maybe the guy should pray to his god to get him out................since god helps so many people. Rolls eyes

    January 28, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • John

      Yes God helps many people. And is not Santa Claus like you seem to think.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • LinCA

      @John

      You said, "And is not Santa Claus like you seem to think."
      True. Santa is far more likely to exist. The Santa myth is based on an actual person, while god myths are based on nothing but ignorance.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Jason Young Guy

      @LinCA First of all Lin in reference to your Santa Clause myth, your ignorance shows very well. Do you even know who Santa Clause is based on? Saint Nichols, which was a devoted Christian Saint. Yes, a believer and servant of God. Great thing about GO
      D, is he allows people like you to have a choice and free will. You're lucky, I wouldn't have been such a tolerant and forgiving God especially when it comes to ignorance and people. As for the Pastor in Iran, unfortunately it is very wrong, and I pray he is released, however, Jesus never leaves your side even in times of persecution as stated in the Bible, and though he may suffer his rewards will be greater than ours as Christians or especially mine in particular. God's Grace to him.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Colin D

      Guess what d#ck wad, he probably has, this article got posted and it will probably expedite his release

      January 28, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • John Geheran

      Not to worry. CAIR will soon respond by reminding everyone that Islam is the "religion of peace" and does not persecute people for changing religions. "Moderate" Muslims will soon follow by pouring into the streets to protest this misunderstanding of Islamic law. At Friday prayers, imams all over the world will speak out against this violation of Islamic jurisprudence. And, oh yeah, there's a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.

      January 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • John

      @linCA, how are you so sure God doesn't exist? Why is believing in God ignorant? Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Is there a book you prescribe to that provides knowledge and proof that God does not exist. Have you read the entire Bible so that you are not ignorant of the counter argument?

      January 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Lin

      Wow you're like a magnet for Straw Man arguments from people like John, and intolerant stupidity from people like Jason. I wish I had that talent, those people are good entertainment most of the time.

      January 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      John.
      Religion originated as a way for primitive people to explain questions such as why does it rain, why do we get floods and drought, why thunder and lightning, how did life come to be, etc. Science explains all of those things.
      That's why believing that the bible is literally true or is a guide to any of those scientific issues is wrong; the bible does not provide any counter argument.

      January 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Jason Young Guy

      You said, "Do you even know who Santa Clause is based on? Saint Nichols, which was a devoted Christian Saint. Yes, a believer and servant of God."
      I am well aware who the Santa myth is based on. And, for your information, it wasn't "Saint Nichols". I even know how he became known as Santa Claus.

      Whether St. Nicolas was a believer is entirely irrelevant to my point. The fact that he actually existed is. Which is far more than can ever be said about your god.

      You said, "Great thing about GOD, is he allows people like you to have a choice and free will."
      That wasn't your god. It was the Easter Bunny that gave man free will. Or was it the Tooth Fairy? I forget.

      January 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • LinCA

      @John

      You said, "how are you so sure God doesn't exist?"
      There isn't a shred of evidence to suggest it exists anywhere outside the minds of believers. Without evidence there is no reason to believe it exists. Without evidence, it is unreasonable to believe it exists. I try not to be unreasonable.

      You said, "Why is believing in God ignorant?"
      Would you consider an adult who still believes in the Tooth Fairy, and makes life decisions on that belief, to be of sound mind? If not, what makes a belief in gods any different?

      You said, "Is there a book you prescribe to that provides knowledge and proof that God does not exist."
      Do you require a book to convince you that the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist?

      You said, "Have you read the entire Bible so that you are not ignorant of the counter argument?"
      I have read the entire bible. It is, in part, why I shed the nonsensical beliefs.

      January 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • LinCA

      @hawaiiguest

      You said, "Wow you're like a magnet for Straw Man arguments from people like John, and intolerant stupidity from people like Jason. I wish I had that talent, those people are good entertainment most of the time."
      It's a combination of perseverance and sheer luck.

      January 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  16. LAW OF THE LAND

    Religion,, the one subject that has killed more people on this earth than anything else has….and each side tries to find an excuse for their past deadly behaviors.

    January 28, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • John

      Religion has also helped more people than anything else. Read the parable on the wheat and tares you will understand.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  17. Name*John

    Don't go to Iran. Ever!

    January 28, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  18. Billy

    This is the real face of Islam. They fear anyone who converts to another religion because it shows Islam is a fraud.

    January 28, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Exactly

      All religions are frauds.

      January 28, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Maksim

      The problem with the islamist is that they don't believe in living peacefully. They live by the sword. There is nothing peaceful about either their religion or their people which is evident in the middle east.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  19. FREEMASONRY FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION BUG IN THE ASS OF ISLAM

    So he's a moron. If he were a Down's kid convicted of blasphemy more of us might want to get him away from the religious freak show in Iran. But he's the wrong kind of mentally challenged, I guess. Fuck the ones who say he should rot. He's an American. Get him out.

    January 28, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Akira

      Well, you certainly may gather your friends and try to get him out.

      January 28, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  20. Zachary

    When you go to another country then you must obey THEIR laws. He knew he was breaking the law. His son will grow up without a father and his wife will grow old without a husband, because of his wreckless disregard for the laws in Iran.

    January 28, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Chad

      Interesting how so many atheists seem to be supporting Iran.. The only reason that I can see is a shared enemy (Christianity)

      January 28, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Ben

      Chad when you are in ANY foreign country you have to obey their laws, it has nothing to do with atheism. What an idiot.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Chad

      right

      Were this a Muslim person jailed by a Christian theocracy for professing faith in Allah, I'm sure your reaction would be the same.
      🙂

      NOT

      January 28, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Ben

      "Were this a Muslim person jailed by a Christian theocracy for professing faith in Allah, I'm sure your reaction would be the same."

      It's called Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and yes people are protesting the treatment of them there.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Richy

      Have you heard of human rights? Im pretty sure they say you can't mistreat someone for speaking out their thoughts.

      Glad to see people who wouldn't fight for values they believe in. We don't jail muslims, so why should we stand them jailing christians?

      And guantanamo bay is for terrorists, no muslims.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Ben

      "And guantanamo bay is for terrorists, no muslims."

      Really that's why 55 of them were just released in Sept because the Justice Department made public the names of the detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison who have been approved for transfer to the custody of other countries, releasing information sought by human rights organizations.

      January 28, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Kevin

      neither Christian nor Muslim religions is innocent from crimes against humanity.

      January 28, 2013 at 2:06 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.