American Pastor with Dual Iranian Citizenship Imprisoned for Christian Faith in Iran
Jan 16 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to engage with the international community and advocate for the release of jailed American pastor Saeed Abedini. Abedini is an American citizen with dual Iranian citizenship who has been in solitary confinement since Sept. 26, 2012, after five members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard raided his parents’ home in Iran. Abedini faces charges based on his Christian faith.
"No person should be detained, tortured or face execution for their religious beliefs," said Sen. Moran. "Iran’s treatment of Pastor Abedini is another example of the Iranian government’s disregard for fundamental human rights and religious freedom. My prayers are with the pastor and his family."
Although the United States and Iran lack diplomatic relations, the letter urges the State Department to work tirelessly to ensure Abedini’s return to the United States. His trial is set for Jan. 21, 2013.
To review the full letter to Sec. Clinton, please see below.
15 January 2013
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
United State Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton,
We write to you on behalf of Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old American citizen with dual Iranian citizenship, who is presently imprisoned in Iran for exercising his fundamental human right of religious freedom. Iran systematically persecutes its Christian community and has sentenced many Christians to steep prison terms, sometimes even death, under the notion that practicing one’s Christian faith is a threat to national security. It is with great urgency we request your swift engagement with the international community to advocate for his release before his trial date on January 21.
On July 28, 2012, as Mr. Abedini lawfully entered Iran through Turkey, the Revolutionary Guard stopped his bus and detained him. After his interrogation, the authorities confiscated his Iranian and U.S. passports and told him to remain in Iran to face trial for his Christian activities. On September 26, 2012, five members of the Revolutionary Guard raided Mr. Abedini’s parents’ home, ransacked it and confiscated all religious materials. Mr. Abedini was then thrown into solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison, before being placed in a general prison cell where self-identifying Al Qaeda members repeatedly assaulted him while the guards turned a blind eye. Mr. Abedini has been interrogated intensely, beaten on at least one occasion, and denied access to legal counsel. The regime also confiscated Mr. Abedini’s Iranian bank account, which contained 130 million toman in donations to be used to build an orphanage. Saeed has broken no codified law in Iran; instead he is being persecuted for his Christian faith.
As a teenager, Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity. Before moving to the United States with his American wife, he established in Iran a network of underground churches. In 2009, while Saeed was visiting his family in Tehran, the intelligence police arrested him and asserted these activities undermined Iran’s national security. At one point during his interrogations, the police threatened him with death. Mr. Abedini was eventually released on bail with the understanding that if he ceased working with the underground house churches, the regime would not prosecute him in court. He agreed and has complied with the terms of his release, instead focusing his work on humanitarian efforts, such as starting an orphanage in Rasht, Iran. Since then, Mr. Abedini has traveled numerous times to Iran to visit his family, and although he was frequently interrogated regarding the purpose of his visits, he never faced detention or the threat of trial – until July 28, 2012. The Iranian regime asserts that Saeed must face trial next week under Judge Pir-Abassi, also known as the “hanging judge”, of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court.
According to his lawyer in Iran, Mr. Abedini will face trial for actions against the national security of Iran. However, documents show that the basis for the charge is Mr. Abedini’s leadership in a house church movement, indicating the regime’s unjustified rejection of their 2009 agreement with Mr. Abedini.
Saeed’s charges and arbitrary detention violate numerous Iranian laws and international obligations. Articles 13, 14, and 23 of the Iranian Constitution guarantee Mr. Abedini his right to freely practice his religion of choice. Furthermore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Iran is a party to, firmly secure one’s right to practice one’s religion of choice and be free from arbitrary detention.
We are grateful for your consistent condemnation of the Iranian regime’s actions that violate religious freedoms and we believe your voice can motivate countries and international organizations that have diplomatic relations with Iran to action. Although the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, we strongly encourage the State Department to exhaust all efforts to secure Mr. Abedini’s prompt return. Saeed’s efforts to provide humanitarian relief and exercise fundamental human rights should be applauded not condemned. We should not stand idly by while the Iranian regime arbitrarily persecutes a U.S. citizen who has committed no crime.
Thank you for our urgent attention to this matter, and we look forward to working with you.