The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today called for the immediate release of Saeed Abedeni, an Iranian-American pastor reportedly awaiting a January 21 trial on trumped-up national security charges that date back to 2000 when he lived in Iran.
According to sources familiar with the case, Mr. Abedini was arrested in Iran in September 2012 for his involvement with the underground house church movement. Mr. Abedini’s lawyer was unaware of the charges until January 14, when he was informed the trial would be held on Monday, January 21.
Mr. Abedini married an American citizen in 2004 and has lived in the United States since 2005. He became a U.S. citizen in 2010 and periodically travels back and forth to Iran.
“The national security charges leveled against Mr. Abedini are bogus and are a typical tactic by the Iranian government to masquerade the real reason for the charges: To suppress religious belief and activity of which the Iranian government does not approve,” said USCIRF chair Katrina Lantos Swett. “USCIRF calls on the Iranian government to release Mr. Abedini immediately and unconditionally.”
Mr. Abedeni’s trial reportedly is scheduled to be heard by Judge Abbas Pir-Abbassi of Branch 26 of Iran’s Revolutionary Court. “Judge Pir-Abbassi is notorious for conducting swift trials and imposing lengthy prison terms, as well as the death penalty, without any semblance of due process,” said Lantos Swett.
An Iranian news outlet reports that Abedeni wrote in a letter to his wife that he has been subjected to torture and threatened with death by hanging. He is being held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.
In 2011, under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), USCIRF called on the U.S. government to impose travel bans and asset freezes on three “hanging judges” — Judge Pir-Abbassi, Judge Salavati and Judge Moghiseh — for committing serious human rights abuses against Iranian citizens, including religious minorities. In April 2011, the European Union imposed sanctions for human rights violations on all three judges. The U.S. government has not as yet followed suit.
Read more at Radical Islam
The ACLJ further reminded concerned citizens that although President Barack Obama and the rest of the U.S. marked National Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16, pastors like Abedini and many other people of faith remain imprisoned based on dubious charges, and the State Department needs to step up and do everything possible to help them in their plight.
“Today, we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace,” Obama wrote in a statement on Jan. 16.
The ACLJ says that over 100,000 people have signed a petition to the U.S. Congress calling for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to personally speak up for Pastor Abedini’s release.
Go to ACLG to sign the petition to free Pastor Saeed