It was reported this past weekend that Reverend Saeed Abedini, a naturalized United States citizen born in Iran, was sentenced to eight years at the notorious Evin prison in Iran, the infamous prison that houses many of Iran’s political prisoners and prominent Christian leaders.  Arrested this past summer, he endured painful beatings while in custody awaiting trial, and had been told that he “will hang” for his “faith in Jesus.”  The 32-year-old father of two was convicted for “threatening the national security of Iran.”  In his defense, Pastor Abedini said that he had gone to Iran to establish an orphanage, and was not preaching Christianity.  Except for one day, Revolutionary Court Judge Abbas Pir-Abbassi, known for his harsh sentences, barred Rev. Abedini and his attorney, Naser Sarbazi, a Moslem human-rights lawyer, from his hastily-called trial that began on January 21st.  Iranian Revolutionary Courts are not known for their transparency, but prosecutors presented evidence that Pastor Abedini created “a network of Christian house churches” starting in 2000, the year he left Islam for Christianity.  Further, Iranian prosecutors alleged that Pastor Abedini intentionally “sought to sway the minds of Iranian youth by turning the youth toward Christianity and against Islam, the official religion of Iran.”

Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, posted this account of her husband’s day in court on the “Pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini” Facebook page:

Saeed was able to share from the Bible to the Judge and say that he was not a political person and had no political intentions, but he was a follower of His Lord Jesus Christ. There will be no more hearings and the formal charges and sentences will most likely be announced next week according to his lawyer in Iran. There seemed to have been moments when the judge was moved by Saeed’s testimony. Please continue to pray for the Judge and Saeed’s release and his return back to our family.

Judge Pir-Abassi convicted and sentenced Pastor Abedini to eight years in prison.  However, given the importance of this trial and the fact that Pastor Abedini holds United States citizenship, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei would likely have had to approve the long sentence.  Following the sentence, Naghmeh, was quoted Sunday in the British newspaper, The Mail, “With today’s development, I am devastated for my husband and my family.  We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and the State Department have both called for Pastor Abedini’s release, though the Iranian government has ignored the request.  However, the State Department issued its call for his release only after 49 members of Congress sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the United States to apply diplomatic pressure on Iran to force Pastor Abedini’s release.   Interestingly, Iranian officials had previously indicated that they planned to release Pastor Abedini, so the news that he was sentenced to eight years in a harsh prison came as a shock to his family and supporters.  Please pray for Pastor Abedini and his family during these difficult times.  If you and your church wish to let Iranian officials know your views regarding Pastor Abedini’s harsh sentence, please contact the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations at the following address (the United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore, there is no Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C.):

The Honorable Mohammed Khazaee
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York City, New York 10017
Telephone: 1.212.867.2020
Fax: 1.212.867.7086