The Corner

Iran Convicts an American Pastor

After a sham trial, the radical Iranian regime has convicted American pastor Saeed Abedini and sentenced him to eight years in one of Iran’s most notoriously brutal prisons. Details from our ACLJ blog (we represent the Abedini family):

This morning in Tehran on an empty promise that American Pastor Saeed Abedini might be released, his lawyer came to court.  The lawyer had no formal notice that his presence was required, only the casual request less than 24 hours before from a court administrator to a family friend that the lawyer should come to the court because it was releasing Pastor Saeed.  But this was all a lie.

Upon arriving at the court, Dr. Naser Sarbazi, Pastor Saeed’s lawyer, saw his client. He knew he had been deceived.

Without family present, Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Iranian Revolutionary Court – known as the “hanging judge” – verbally convicted and sentenced Pastor Saeed to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches.  The evidence provided was of Pastor Saeed’s Christian activities primarily during the early 2000s, when under President Khatami house churches were not perceived as a threat to Iran. Despite Iranian law requiring a written verdict, none was given. 

Iran’s actions came two days after the White House and State Department broke their silence on his case and publicly and unequivocally called for his release.

While the news is devastating, hope is not lost.  Last year an international public relations and diplomatic offensive compelled Iran to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani after it had sentenced the pastor to death for apostasy. At the ACLJ we’re launching the next phase of advocacy, at the U.N. and EU, calling on them to press Iran to abide not only by its international treaty commitments but also its own constitution.

I received the news while sitting in church — exercising rights denied to the tiny and embattled Christian community in Iran. In reaching out to Iran’s most vulnerable citizens (Saeed was in the country to build an orphanage), he has demonstrated love and courage that few of us can comprehend. An international community that claims to value human rights owes him its support.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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