The wife of the Iranian-American pastor held in Iran, along with U.S. attorneys representing the family, have traveled to Geneva and will present his case to the United Nations Human Rights Council Monday, urging the organization to push harder for the pastor’s immediate release.
Saeed Abedini, the 33-year-old Idaho resident serving an eight-year prison term in Tehran's infamous Evin prison for his Christian faith, left behind two young children and his wife Naghmeh, who has been tirelessly telling his story to various media outlets and testifying before government officials in hopes that her husband will soon come home.
He reportedly has suffered serious injuries, including internal bleeding from brutal prison beatings and torture.
“He has been in that brutal prison long enough. He hasn’t broken any laws. It’s not just Saeed, there are many others. They are being persecuted because of their beliefs, and I hope this hearing sheds light on other cases as well,” said Naghmeh Abedini in an exclusive interview with Fox News.
She has not had any communication with her husband since early January, when family members in Iran received their weekly call from Abedini and patched her and their children into the phone conversation.
“She represents the face of how Iran’s persecution of Christians truly has a worldwide impact,” said attorney Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, the organization representing Abedini’s U.S.-based family.
Sekulow has traveled together with Naghmeh to Geneva to appear before the 23rd Plenary Session of the Human Rights Council.
“I implored the nations represented on the Human Rights Council to stand up for the most basic of human rights – the right to peaceably assemble in exercise of one’s religious beliefs – and urge Iran to release Pastor Saeed Abedini,” Sekulow said.
Abedini has endured long stints in solitary confinement, and, according to his supporters, beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates. For months, he has been suffering from serious injuries, including internal bleeding from beatings, with no proper medical attention, according to his family and attorneys.
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.
When he returned to Iran last year to help build a state-run, secular orphanage, Iranian police pulled him off a bus and imprisoned him.
After spending months imprisoned without any notice of charges, Abedini was sentenced in January to eight years in prison, as his family and attorneys continued to press the State Department and other public and private groups to help win his release. The American Center for Law and Justice last week met with State Department officials after noting U.S. diplomats had not issued a single press release demanding Abedini's release.
While Abedini’s case has received a great deal of media attention, there are several others serving time in Iran’s prison because of their Christian faith.
This week government agents shut down Iran’s largest Persian-language Pentecostal church only a week after one of its pastors was arrested and taken to an undisclosed location midway through a worship service.
On May 21, regime officials hauled away Pastor Robert Asserian while services were under way. They have not told parishioners where he is being held.
While Armenians can openly practice Christianity in Iran, Christians who converted from Islam are forbidden to do so. The government has traditionally confiscated Christian prayer literature written in Persian and is now shutting down the country’s largest Persian-speaking church in an effort to stop conversion from Islam.
Some estimates quote the number of Iranian Christians, mostly converts from Islam, at about 100,000, in a nation of 75 million.