Prosecution and lengthy sentencing of Mr. Abedini are the most recent in an ongoing government campaign against Christians in Iran
The United States condemns the sentencing by an Iranian court of Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini to eight years in prison.
Mr. Abedini, who lives in the United States with his wife and two young children, was arrested by authorities in July 2012 during a trip to visit his family in Iran. According to Iran’s semi-official news agency, ISNA, Mr. Abedini was tried in a Revolutionary Court earlier this month on charges of attempting to undermine state security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes. His lawyer was given one day to defend Mr. Abedini before the court; the following day both the lawyer and defendant were barred from the proceedings.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, which serves as the legal representation for Mr. Abedini’s family in the United States, Mr. Abedini has been beaten and tortured in Evin prison since his detention last fall.
The prosecution and lengthy sentencing of Mr. Abedini are the most recent in an ongoing government campaign against Christians in Iran, a campaign that includes harassment, arbitrary arrest, and imprisonment. In 2010 Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to die for the so-called crime of apostasy. He was released from prison last year following an international outcry. Iranian Pastor Farshid Fathi is currently serving a six year prison term, after being convicted of crimes against national security.
In September 2012 U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed reported that over 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010. Members of other minority religions, including Baha’is, Gonabadi dervishes, and Sunni Muslims, are also persecuted.
Both the White House and the U.S. State Department condemned Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and called on Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the fairness and transparency of his trial and noted that the State Department is in close contact with the Abedini family and remains actively engaged on the case.