Published June 04, 2013
The wife of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian beliefs delivered an impassioned plea to foreign diplomats gathered in Geneva, begging them to press the Islamic republic to free her husband.
Naghmeh Abedini, whose husband Saeed Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, told members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to join her “in crying out against his persecution.”
“My husband, a U.S. citizen and loving father of our two young children, has been held in Iran's brutal Evin Prison because of his faith -- without a voice to fight for his freedom,” she said in testimony Tuesday morning. “I must, therefore, be his voice.”
Abedini’s backers have for months pressed his case, but hearing it from the 33-year-old Idaho resident's wife and mother of his two children had far greater impact, according to Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the Abedinis.
“The opportunity for her to share her husband’s story before the United Nations is very significant,” Sekulow told FoxNews.com from Geneva, where he testified on Friday. “They looked her directly in the eyes, heard her pleas and saw her pain. The empathy and compassion of the world could be felt as she delivered her remarks.”
Representatives of member nations as well as non-governmental organizations were on hand.
Abedini has suffered long stints in solitary confinement, and, according to his family and attorneys in Iran, beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates inside the brutal gulag. For months, he reportedly has been suffering from serious injuries, including internal bleeding from beatings, with no proper medical attention. Experts consider the conditions so extreme that Abedini’s eight-year term is seen as a veritable death sentence.
“Saeed is not guilty of violating any Iranian law; instead, he is being held as a prisoner of conscience because he had exercised his fundamental human rights and converted from Islam to Christianity,” Naghmeh Abedini said. “Please join me in calling for Saeed’s release, not just for my family, but also to spur action to protect human dignity, freedom of expression, and religious tolerance across the globe.”
Abedini left his wife and two young children in Boise, to travel to his homeland last year to visit family and help build a state-run, secular orphanage on family-owned land. Although he had made many such visits in recent years, this time he was pulled off of a bus in September and taken to prison.
More than a decade ago, Abedini began working as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran’s underground home church communities for Christian converts who are forbidden from praying in public churches. He was arrested in 2009, but released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran.
After spending months imprisoned without any notice of charges, Abedini was sentenced Jan. 27.