8 Americans to Remember This Christmas

download (47)The Heritage Foundation,  By :

Christmas is a time for celebration and family. It should also be a time for reflection, appreciation for all we have, and remembrance of those who are in need.

While most of us are gathering with loved ones, there are Americans being held prisoner in repressive countries around the world—often for doing nothing more than practicing their faith, aiding the poor, giving voice to the voiceless, or serving their country. Here are some of their heart-wrenching stories:

  • Saeed Abedini, an American pastor, was arrested in 2012 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard while visiting his family. He had worked for years to set up churches in Iran. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence on charges related to practicing his Christian faith.
  • Kenneth Bae was arrested in North Korea in November 2012. Bae was conducting visiting tours of North Korea and working quietly as a missionary to spread Christianity, which is prohibited in North Korea. He was convicted of committing hostile acts against North Korea and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
  • Bowe Bergdahl, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, is a POW in Afghanistan. Sergeant Bergdahl was captured by militants belonging to the Haqqani terrorist network in June 2009. His captors have released several videos of Bergdahl since his capture to demonstrate that he was alive and healthy. The Pentagon believes that he is being held in Pakistan.
  • James Foley is a U.S. journalist who disappeared in northeast Syria in November 2012. Foley was in Syria to cover the civil war for Agence France-Presse. His family has had no contact with him since his disappearance, but he is believed to a prisoner of the Syrian government.
  • Alan Gross, a 64-year old U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor, has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009. Gross was arrested by the Cuban government for fulfilling a USAID contract to distribute communications equipment to the Cuban Jewish community. He was convicted of crimes against the Cuban state and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He recently sent a letter to President Obama pleading for the Administration to take stronger steps to obtain his release.
  • Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine and decorated war veteran, was arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned in Iran while visiting his grandmother in 2011. He wassentenced to death by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard for allegedly spying for the CIA—a charge overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court and ordered for retrial.
  • Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, has been missing since 2007. Levinson is believed to have been kidnapped and detained by the Iranian government. He is currently the longest-held hostage in U.S. history. Recent news reports indicate that Levinson may have been working with the CIA.
  • Austin Tice, former Captain in the United States Marine Corps and recipient of the 2012 George Polk Award for War Reporting, disappeared in Syria in August 2012. Tice was in Syria as a freelance journalist to report on the civil war. The Czech ambassador to Syria stated that his sources indicate that Tice is alive and in the custody of the Syrian government. Tice’s parents recently traveled to Syria to try and raise awareness about Austin.

At Christmas, it is appropriate for Americans to remember their fellow citizens in distress abroad.

We should also take a moment to appreciate how fortunate we are to live in a country that respects our rights and freedoms. Totalitarian governments around the world torture and imprison thousands of people for opposing the government, practicing their religion, or simply expressing their thoughts and opinions. The U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 details arrest and arbitrary detention of political prisoners, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture in many countries, including CubaIran,North Korea, and Zimbabwe.

It is a good time to remember these victims in our prayers, urge our government to try and help them, and support organizations that raise awareness of their plights.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Likens Zionists to Nazis

More Fallout from the Obama-Kerry-Ayatollah Nuclear Deal

download (39)ACT! For America, By Brigitte Gabriel:

Iran has not yet tested an atomic bomb, but there is already fallout from the deal on nuclear technology that President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, have cut with the genocidal mullahocracy in Iran.

Ironically, our best hope for this agreement falling apart comes from Tehran, not Washington, DC.

The Iranians have already publicly interpreted the agreement to bestow upon them an inherent right to enrich uranium, something that Kerry specifically denies. On top of that, the agreement was evidently so sloppily written that there are loopholes that allow the Iranians to carry out sensitive, military-related nuclear work off of specific, known nuclear sites without being in violation of the agreement and, most ominously, without International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) oversight.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who actually has no real authority over the nation’s national security policy, made it clear in an interview with the Financial Times that Iran has no intention of cutting back on any aspect of its nuclear program:

http://video.ft.com/v/2878742620001

Despite this, Iran still gets billions of dollars in financial incentives in the form of eased sanctions. On top of this, Iran will enjoy a literal bonanza in the form of increased oil exports, which could result in an additional $18 billion per year in oil revenue due to the deal:

http://freebeacon.com/analysts-iran-oil-experts-could-increase-50-percent/

No wonder observers are calling the deal a “surrender.” Mark Steyn has one of the best commentaries along these lines over on National Review

In Geneva, the participants came to the talks with different goals: The Americans and Europeans wanted an agreement; the Iranians wanted nukes. Each party got what it came for. Before the deal, the mullahs’ existing facilities were said to be within four to seven weeks of nuclear “breakout”; under the new constraints, they’ll be eight to nine weeks from breakout. In return, they get formal international recognition of their enrichment program, and the gutting of sanctions — and everything they already have is, as they say over at Obamacare, grandfathered in.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/365132/surrender-geneva-mark-steyn

Two decades of work by Republicans and Democrats alike have been thrown into the trash bin by the Obama-Kerry-Ayatollahs deal. There is no longer any economic pressure on Iran to change its behavior and the Iranians have made it clear that they have no intention of changing that behavior. The Israelis, who have been on the receiving end of Iranian-sponsored terrorism and direct Iranian threats, are understandably outraged:

Unnamed Israeli officials denounced US President Barack Obama on Friday night for presiding over failed negotiations with Iran under which, they said, the sanctions pressure on Tehran is collapsing and the Islamic Republic has been granted the right to enrich uranium. The entire wall of sanctions, painstakingly constructed over years, is already crumbling and “will collapse within months,” the officials were quoted as saying.http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-officials-denounce-obama-for-giving-iran-right-to-enrich-destroying-sanctions/

Key Iranian officials agree with Israel’s assessment. They are, however, celebrating. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of Iran’s Majlis (similar to a parliament, but with no real authority) Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, has overtly declared victory as a result of the deal with Obama and Kerry:

“…the Islamic Republic controls all aspects of nuclear science, from A-Z, from the very beginning all the way to uranium enrichment…After ten years, we have emerged victorious over the West.”http://www.memri.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4054.htm

To add insult to injury, it is now being reported that, as part of the months long negotiation between the Ayatollahs and the Obama administration, the US has released a top Iranian scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, who had been arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire equipment that could be used for Iran’s military-nuclear programs.

In other words, Obama is releasing nuclear experts to go back and work for Iran, and in return we cannot even win the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini. By the way, so much for the idea that the US does not negotiate with terrorists. The Obama administration has made it a commonplace practice…

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/11/29/U-S-Released-Iranian-Scientist-As-Part-Of-Nuke-Talks-Before-Geneva-Agreement

Speaking of terrorism, the nuclear agreement makes no mention whatsoever of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, as has been documented by the US State Department for many years:

http://iranbulletin.me/2013/11/26/the-coming-bonanza-for-jihad-from-the-obamakerry-ayatollah-nuclear-bargain/

Nor does the deal address Iran’s very active ballistic missile program, which has no possible peaceful application:

http://iranbulletin.me/2013/11/27/the-other-threat-obama-and-kerry-ignored-ballistic-missiles/

Unfortunately, the so-called mainstream media is in the tank for Obama and their reporting has had a great influence on public opinion on the nuclear deal with the Ayatollahs. Polls show a decisive majority of Americans in favor of the deal.

As America’s leading grassroots national security organization, it is vital that ACT for America and its hundreds of thousands of members educate the public about the true nature of this deal and express our opinions to elected officials.

U.S. Pastor Imprisoned in Iran Moved to Facility for Violent Criminals

Saeed-Abedini-city-skyline

  • Inmates in Rajai Shahr Prison known to kill fellow prisoners
  • Pastor Saeed Abedini move may be caused by internal political fights
  • Nuclear talks open rift between Revolutionary Guard and Rouhani

BY: :

An U.S. pastor imprisoned in Iran for preaching Christianity has been moved to a facility housing Iran’s most violent criminals, sparking fresh concerns about his safety and calls for President Barack Obama to apply more diplomatic pressure on the Iranian regime.

American Pastor Saeed Abedini has been transferred from the Evin prison in Tehran to the Rajai Shahr Prison, about an hour-and-a-half away in Karaj, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). The Rajai Shahr Prison holds many of Iran’s most violent offenders, including convicted murderers and rapists.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of ACLJ, said in an interview that it is common for prisoners in the death row ward where Abedini has been placed to kill each other. The Iranian regime has sent those it views as troublemakers there in the past to “have them executed without having to kill them on [their] own,” he said.

Sekulow noted that Abedini’s transfer comes as the United States and other world powers are set to discuss Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Thursday and Friday.

“By making this move it would appear that there are elements in Iran that are trying to undermine the negotiations,” he said. We don’t know if we have until Thursday at this point—it’s that bad of a situation.”

Read more at Free Beacon

Ignoring the Sharia Basis for Iran’s Persecution of Christians

wine-communion.jpg.pagespeed.ce.dSIgxTrh7IBy Andrew Bostom:

A confluence of news stories last week, including, prominently, the release of a report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, have highlighted the plight of Iranian Christians.

The salient findings from Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s report (issued online Tuesday 10/22/13), were as follows:

Sources communicate that at least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013. In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported. Authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services, and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing. According to sources, more than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing and attending Christian seminars abroad.

His report further noted allegations of additional abuses, including “various forms of legal discrimination…in employment and education,” as well as frequent cases of “arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment.”

Monday, 10/21/13, a day before the Special Rapporteur’s report was issued, Eddie Romero, a retired California pastor, who managed to enter Iran surreptitiously, staged a protest before Iran’s infamous Evin prison. Repeatedly proclaiming, “Let my people go,” in Farsi, Romero attempted to draw attention to the predicament of at least four Iranians, incarcerated for converting from Islam to Christianity—Farshid Fathi, Saeed Abedini, Mostafa Bordbar, and Alireza Seyyedian. (Detained for 24-hours in Iran, Romero was released and returned safely to the U.S. by mid-week.)

Shahrokh Afshar, a pastor for the Iranian Church On The Way in Los Angeles, maintained Christian converts in Iran were imprisoned simply because they practiced their new faith. “Their greatest sin was leaving Islam to follow Christ,” he stated. One of the four imprisoned Christians, whose plight Pastor Romero was protesting, is Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has been incarcerated for over a year in Iran. His wife, Naghmeh, wrote a poignant depiction (published 9/25/13) of her husband’s ordeal on the bitter one year anniversary of his imprisonment.

Without warning, members of the Revolutionary Guard pulled him off of a bus and put him under house arrest in his parents’ home in Tehran. On September 26, 2012, members of the Guard came to the home and took him away — in chains — to Evin Prison, where he has remained ever since.

The following day, Wednesday 9/23/13, Christian Solidarity International published a report about a “verdict” an Iranian court issued on October 6th, which the named defendants received October 20th. Four members of the Church of Iran—Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), Mehdi Dadkhah (Danial) and Amir Hatemi (Youhanna)—were charged with drinking alcohol during a communion service, and possession of a receiver and satellite antenna. The court sentenced them to receive 80 lashes each, for these alleged “offenses.” Two of the “suspects,” Behzad Taalipasand and Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), had been detained December 31, 2012, during an Iranian government crackdown on house churches. Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn Thomas, declared forthrightly,

The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably. We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation’s legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.

With depressing predictability, the Sharia (Islamic law)-based dynamic which underpins such blatant—and grotesque—religious persecution, was ignored by the mainstream media, including conservative outlets. Even the following specific (if merely allusive) statement contained within the Special Rapporteur’s analysis itself, did not get repeated.

the [Iranian] Government…states that its Constitution recognizes only Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism as minority religions and that adherents to those religions are entitled to manifest their beliefs, “within the limits of the law”, which is governed by Islamic sharia. [emphasis added]

For example, neither Benjamin Weinthal’s blog at NRO (“Iran’s Continued War on Christians,” 10/25/13), nor his lengthier Fox News piece (“Iran gives Christians 80 lashes for communion wine as UN blasts human rights record,” 10/24/13)—despite the fact that both accounts referenced Special Rapporteur Shaheed’s report—mentioned, let alone honestly elaborated upon, Shaheed’s allusion to sharia. Although Weinthal should not be singled out, per se, the discussion which follows demonstrates why his omission—pathognomonic of this consistent lacuna in contemporary “reportage” on Iran’s abuse of its vulnerable non-Muslim minority populations—is egregious, and unacceptable.

Read more at PJ Media

Congressmen Join Prayer Vigil for Imprisoned American Pastor in Iran

Ted Cruz at Saeed Abedini prayer vigil / Andrew Evans

Ted Cruz at Saeed Abedini prayer vigil / Andrew Evans

BY: :

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), members of Congress, and a representative from the State Department joined a prayer vigil on Thursday afternoon in front of the White House to protest Iran’s imprisonment of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor and American citizen.

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran’s Evin prison in Tehran.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Saeed,” Jane Zimmerman, deputy assistant secretary for human rights at the State Department, told the assembled crowd.

“We’ve been working that issue very publically as well as privately and doing everything we can to try to secure his release,” Zimmerman told the Washington Free Beacon after her remarks.

Abedini is a dual American-Iranian citizen and a Christian pastor who lived in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two children. Abedini was in Iran last year to set up a secular orphanage when Iranian forces arrested him and sentenced him to eight years in jail for threatening national security. He recently lost his final appeal.

The imprisonment of Saeed Abedini has garnered headlines recently as Abedini’s wife delivered a letter from her husband to Iranian President Hassan Rowhani in New York asking for her husband’s release and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Rowhani about Abedini’s imprisonment.

Rowhani was in New York for the United Nations General Convention.

“It’s a fundamental violation of universal norms and international human rights to arrest someone for their faith and their conscience,” Zimmerman told the Free Beacon, “and clearly he’s a prisoner of conscience for his beliefs.”

Abedini spends much of his day in solitary confinement in a jail cell measuring two feet by two feet, said Jordan Sekulow, director of international operations at the American Center for Law and Justice. The pastor has been beaten and is suffering from internal bleeding. His supporters do not expect him to survive the eight years in prison.

Sen. Cruz and several representatives from Congress joined the prayer vigil.

“Pastor Abedini’s crime was simply following his Christian faith,” Cruz said.

Cruz told the crowd about a resolution he has introduced in the Senate that would allow President Barack Obama to meet with Rowhani only if he affirms Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and releases American prisoners in Iran.

Cruz then led the crowd in prayer for Abedini.

“We ask you to be with him as you were with Daniel in the lions den,” Cruz prayed, alluding to the biblical story of a Jewish man who was thrown into a den of lions in Babylon for practicing his faith.

Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) criticized the Obama administration for its silence and the “disregard” it has shown for religious freedom

Read more at Free Beacon

Lies and a Conviction: Iran Mocks Justice – Convicts and Sentences American Pastor Saeed

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Petition to Save Pastor Saeed Abedini from Iranian Prison

ACLJ:

By Jordan Sekulow Jan. 27, 2013

Our worst fears have been realized. 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.

Here’s the troubling reality: A U.S. citizen, who has been beaten and tortured since his imprisonment last fall, is now facing eight years in Evin Prison, one of the most brutal prisons in Iran.

We represent Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and her two children who live in the U.S. Upon hearing this injustice, Naghmeh, said: “The promise of his release was a lie.  We should not trust the empty words or promises put out by the Iranian government.  These false hopes amount to psychological torture.  You don’t want to trust them, but they build a glimmer of hope before the crushing blow.  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.”

We know that with the Iranian Revolutionary Court, Pastor Saeed’s conviction and sentence had to be approved at the very top – The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had to sign off.

Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights.  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.  As his wife has pleaded, starting with our own government, every effort must be pursued. We are calling on the State Department and the White House, which have both called for Pastor Saeed’s release, to engage further.

This is a real travesty. An U.S. citizen faces a lengthy prison term for simply because of his Christian faith.  Pastor Saeed now faces eight years in a harsh prison – likely facing life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Saeed and his family. We will continue to utilize all of our efforts to see that justice is served and Pastor Saeed is safely in the arms of his loving wife and two children back home in the United States.

Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice.