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Supporters of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran for practicing his Christian faith, have asked the United Nations to take up his cause.
The European Centre for Law and Justice filed a formal request with the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to call on Iran to immediately release Abedini, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.
“By bringing his story before a global audience, it's our hope that member states and other organizations will become a strong voice for Pastor Saeed – raising the visibility of this troubling case and putting additional pressure on Iran to free him,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is affiliated with the European organization.
Saeed, a 32-year-old American citizen and the married father of two, traveled last summer from his home near Boise, Idaho, to help build an orphanage in his native country. Once there, supporters say he was arrested on charges that stem from decade-old efforts to establish a home-based Christian ministry in the Islamic republic.
The Strasbourg, France-based ECLJ has special consultative status as a non-governmental organization at the UN, giving it official credence with the agency that advocates for human rights.
“There is no better case for the HRC to engage than that of Pastor Saeed -- a U.S. citizen -- imprisoned in a nation that not only rejects religious freedom and human rights laws, but exhibits a hostile disdain for international law that protects the most basic rights of people around the world,” Sekulow said.
Abedini's relatives visited him at the prison this month and said he is demoralized and unaware of international efforts to secure his freedom. He has been unable to communicate with his wife, Nagameh, and their two children since being sentenced.
Although Abedini’s lawyer has appealed his sentence, experts following the case think Abedini’s only chance at freedom lies with a grant of clemency from the religious clerics that rule Iran.