Morning Star News reports on Iran’s sentencing of an American citizen, Saeed Abedini, to eight years in prison after a trial in which the accused and his attorney were barred from the courtroom while prosecutors brought testimony against him:
ISTANBUL -– Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s most notorious prison today for allegedly threatening “national security” by planting house churches years ago. …
“This is a real travesty – a mockery of justice,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Liberty and Justice (ACLJ), which represents Abedini’s wife and children in the United States. “From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release.”
The verdict comes after a week of false promises of being granted bail and fear for his safety in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison. Iran’s official news agency reported that the state regime had told the pastor he could be released if he posted bail. When his family in Tehran attempted to free him, however, the bail officer turned them away, according to the ACLJ.
His location was also unknown for the last six days, since his first and only hearing before the judge on Monday (Jan. 21). Prison officials prevented his family from visiting him by claiming he had been transferred to another wing for medical treatment.
During his incarceration, Abedini faced periods of solitary confinement, repeated physical assaults and intense interrogations, “all while being denied access to legal counsel,” according to a letter members of U.S. Congress sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Jan 15. …
During the trial [Abedini] presented himself confidently before the judge, ACLJ International Legal Director Tiffany Barrans told Morning Star News.
“He was able to share from the Bible, explaining to the judge that he was motivated by his faith and had no political intention to undermine the Iranian government,” she said.
Abedini has been incarcerated since September. He was arrested when he returned to Iran to visit his family. He first became a Christian in 2000 and was ordained as a member of the American Evangelistic Association in 2008.
Before the verdict was given, the White House, the U.S. State Department, and 49 members of Congress called for his release as a U.S. citizen, fearing that the court was ready to hand Abedini a death sentence.
In a Friday (Jan. 25) press conference, White House Spokesman Jay Carney condemned Iran’s “continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and we call on Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini.”
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You can make a difference by signing the ACLJ petition calling on President Obama, the Secretary of State, and the U.S. Congress to “take all available diplomatic and legislative action to pressure Iran to respect religious freedom and release Pastor Saeed.”