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American pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in a notoriously brutal Iranian prison for his Christian faith, is facing physical and psychological torture at the hands of captors demanding he renounce his beliefs, according to supporters.
The 32-year-old married father of two, who left his home in Boise, Idaho, to help start an orphanage in his latest country, detailed “horrific pressures” and “death threats,” is a letter to family members, according to his U.S.-based attorneys.
“My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky,” read the letter, sneaked out of Evin prison in Tehran. "They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me.”
Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. The American Center for Law and Justice has provided legal support for Abedini’s family in the U.S. and is working through various government means to help win the pastor’s release. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said the fact that the torture is happening after Abedini's trial, a sham he and his attorney were not even allowed to attend, is particularly chilling.
“This is post conviction," Sekulow said. "This isn’t about a trial. This is about life, and the message is you will be treated this way until you become a Muslim.”
Family and friends of Abedini have long suspected the worst regarding his treatment in the prison, but the latest letter confirmed their fears.
“This is only second time we’ve heard from him, but this makes sense in light of how Christians are being treated in Iran," Sekulow said. "He can’t communicate this message every day. It’s our job to get this important message out to everyone.”
Abedini has denied evangelizing in Iran since being arrested and admonished more than a decade ago. He has made over nine trips to Iran since 2009, but says he traveled to visit family and friends, and on his last trip over the summer of 2012, finalize details on a family established orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into Evin prison.
“It is heart wrenching to hear of Saeed's continued abuse and torture in the Iranian prison. We have known for some time that he is facing physical and psychological abuse. Now our worst fears have been confirmed,” said his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, in reaction to the most recent letter.
The ACLJ, along with its European affiliate, filed a document last week with the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) calling on Iran to immediately release Abedini, citing Iran’s violations of international law and human rights abuses.
Also last week, more than 80 members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to “exhaust every possible option to secure Mr. Abedini’s immediate release.” The letter stated that “[a]s a U.S. citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights.”
The ACLJ’s #SaveSaeed campaign and petition continues to gather momentum with over 300,000 signatures and a global effort to use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to keep international pressure on this case.