Published January 21, 2013
The wife of an American imprisoned in Iran on charges of evangelizing bitterly denounced as "a lie" a report that her husband had been granted bail.
Iran's state news agency reported Monday that Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who was born in Iran but now lives in Idaho would soon be free. But the report, which came on the first day of Abedini's trial, was seen by Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, as just another cruel manipulation.
“This is all a lie by the Iranian media," Naghmeh Abedini said. "This has been a repeated promise by the Iranian regime since Saeed was first thrown in prison on Sept. 26, 2012. We have presented bail. After the judge told Saeed’s lawyer that bail was back on the table, the family in Tehran ran around in circles today to make sure Saeed was let out on bail. But again the bail officer rejected bail."
She said her husband's attorney, Nasser Sarbazi, cautioned her that the report, first carried by the state-controlled ISNA news agency and picked up by The Associated Press, did not mean her husband was closer to freedom.
"This is a game to silence the international media," the distraught wife continued. "The lawyer in Iran was asked to make a statement, but that was before the family’s attempts today and before the regime again rejected bail. Dr. Sarbazi told me today that the regime is not dropping the charges against Saeed – this is the only act that would allow Saeed to leave Iran and return to the U.S.”
Abedini is accused attempting to undermine state security by organizing a network of home-based Christian churches. The 34-year-old father of two, who lives in Idaho, has denied evangelizing in Iran and claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.
The exact crimes he is accused of only became public on Monday, when the prosecutor outlined charges that Abedini undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and that he was attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.
The court presented evidence that dated back to the year 2000, the same year that Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity. Abedini has acknowledged evangelizing in Iran more than a decade ago, but says he was arrested and then freed on the condition he never do it again.
"This trial apparently is focused on 13 years ago, when Pastor Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the pastor’s family and has been monitoring the situation, said in a statement to FoxNews.com.
Although the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, last week, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the administration was troubled over Abedini’s imprisonment.
“We remain troubled by the case of U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who was arrested by Iranian officials more than three months ago on charges relating to his religious beliefs,” Vietor said. “We call upon Iranian authorities to release him immediately.”
In addition, last week nearly 50 members of the House of Representatives signed and delivered a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office urging her to leave “no stone unturned” in her efforts to bring Abedini back to the states.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.