Iran (MNN) — An Iranian American pastor from Boise, Idaho has been convicted of planting churches in Iran. Abedini's sentence, delivered after a trial he was partially forbidden to attend, was denounced by the U.S. State Department and by American religious-freedom advocates.
Pastor Saeed Abedini's lawyer said his client was sentenced to eight years in prison. According to Mohabat News, in his interview with ISNA's legal reporter, Mr. Naser Sarbazi, Pastor Abedini's attorney said, "I was called to branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on Sunday and received the court's verdict. Of course, my client, Saeed Abedini, was also brought to the courtroom and was informed of the verdict at the same time.
The lawyer added, "My client was sentenced to 8 years in prison for planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security."
Naghmeh Abedini, Pastor Abedini's wife who resides in the U.S., confirmed the report and told Mohabat News, "Saeed's lawyer will appeal the court ruling within the given twenty days. We hope that the high court will overturn the verdict."
Regarding his release, the lawyer for the 32-year-old pastor, Mr. Sarbazi, said, "The submitted bail for my client's release has not been approved yet, and I am still in the process of pursuing it."
After Pastor Abedini's trial, his lawyer had indicated that according to some comments the pastor would be released in a matter of days and would have no problem leaving the country.
Regarding this statement, Naghmeh Abedini had told Mohabat News that the lawyer's remarks concerning Mr. Abedini's release are just a game to keep the international media quiet. She had also said that it seems the lawyer was asked to make these statements concerning Pastor Abedini's release.
The Iranian judicial authorities promised the pastor's family numerous times to release him on bail. However, they have refused to release him each time.
They had earlier demanded 400 million Tomans (roughly 330,000 USD) bail for Mr. Abedini's release.
According to received reports, Pastor Abedini had been transferred to public ward 3, hall 1, the day before and will be permitted to visit his family beginning tomorrow.
Pastor Abedini's trial was held on the morning of Monday, January 21, without public access to the courtroom, in branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran and judged by Mr. Pir-Abbasi. As a Fox News report says, Mr. Pir-Abbasi has been sanctioned many times by the European Union for his court actions and sentences.
During the hearing, Pastor Abedini's charges were announced as "creating house-churches aimed to undermine national security and conspiring to commit crime".
Pastor Abedini was arrested during this trip to Iran to "visit his family and continue efforts to establish an orphanage in Iran." He has been in Evin prison since September 26, 2012. After his arrest, his wife had said, "When he became a Christian, the Islamic regime considered him a criminal in his own country."
At least eight members of congress have sent a letter to the State Department saying, in part, "The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran…. We respectfully request that you leave no stone unturned in your efforts to bring Mr. Abedini home to his family."
Pray that Pastor Abedini's imprisonment will allow him to share his faith with those behind bars. Pray that he'll be released and will be a witness for Christ.