An Idaho pastor held by Iran for three years this Saturday is now faced with an arbitrary extension of his eight-year prison sentence — as he also faces fresh torture behind bars.
Saeed Abedini, 35, is being held at Rajaei Shahr prison west of Tehran. He was convicted in January 2013 of establishing Christian house churches, though he was in the country to set up a government-sanctioned orphanage.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been representing Abedini’s family, the pastor was pulled into an interrogation session yesterday in which his captors repeatedly used a Taser on him.
“This new assault is concerning as Pastor Saeed is still being denied needed medical care for injuries sustained as a result of beatings in the past,” the ACLJ said. “The interrogators threatened that Pastor Saeed will face new criminal charges. They claimed Pastor Saeed has connections with anti-government groups and has made statements and taken actions against the government of Iran. Pastor Saeed denied all of these allegations, and once again asserted that he is apolitical and that he has never threatened the security of, made any statements against, or taken any action against the Government of Iran.”
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said in a statement that “hearing that yet again the hardliners in Iran are trying to fabricate evidence against my husband and that he was abused and tasered is almost too much to bear.”
“It is time for governments all over the world shift their focus to the injustices of the Iranian Government and call on the Government of Iran to free my husband. It is time for businesses seeking to do business in Iran to look beyond their bottom dollar and see the instability of a government known to imprison innocent men and women who have exercised their fundamental freedoms,” she said. “Whether we operate in the field of business, government, or simply are members of human society, we must expect and demand more of our leaders.”
“I pray that as President Rouhani plans his travel to the United States next week, he will hear relentless voices crying out for Saeed’s freedom.”
The Iranian president will be speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.
The day after Naghmeh appeared on Capitol Hill in June to plead for her husband’s release, Abedini was viciously beaten.
According to the ACLJ, Abedini was attacked not by guards in that instance but by fellow inmates as he was leaving his cell.
In addition to being punched in the face and suffering two black eyes, his attackers “demolished a small table Pastor Saeed used to study and read.”
Naghmeh hasn’t been able to speak with her husband since his conviction years ago, but the injuries were seen by a relative who visited the prison.
Naghmeh told lawmakers during that hearing — which also featured testimony from the families of Iran hostages Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, and Bob Levinson — that she fears for not only whether Saeed will be able to come home but how he’ll be after returning to his family.
“His mental condition is my biggest worry even though his physical condition is not very well,” she said, adding that the pastor has been told by his jailers “he will never come out unless he renounces his faith.” He has refused.
“Where’s the action? Where’s the result? Iran continues to shrug it off and not really respond to our discussion on the sidelines,” Naghmeh said of the administration’s assertion that it brings up the cases of the Americans on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations. “Help bring my husband home before you consent to any deal.”
The administration not only consented to a deal, but the Senate filibustered a bill that would have required release of the American hostages and recognition of Israel for Iran to receive any sanctions relief.