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Iran sentences American pastor Saeed Abedini to 8 years in prison



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Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, an American imprisoned in  Iran on charges of evangelizing, was sentenced this morning to eight years in  prison.

According to the American Center for Law and Justice,  Abedini was verbally sentenced in Tehran by Judge Pir-Abassi, known as the  “hanging judge,” to eight years in prison for threatening the national security  of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. He will serve the  time in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, known as one of the most brutal.

The evidence, the ACLJ reports, was based on Abedini’s  activities primarily during the early 2000s, when house churches were not  considered a threat in Iran.

“This is a real travesty – a mockery of justice,”  Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, who represents Pastor  Saeed’s wife and children living in the U.S., said in a statement. “From the  very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case,  even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own  laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights. We call on the  citizens of the world to rise up in protest. We call on governments around  the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed.”

Although the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with  Iran, National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a  statement Sunday the administration is “deeply disappointed that Saeed Abedini  has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on a charge related to his  religious beliefs.

“We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal  right of freedom of religion and we call on the Iranian authorities to release  Mr. Abedini.”

Meehan added that the State Department remains in close  contact with Abedini.

The State Department also called for Abedini’s  release.

“Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day (January 21) to  present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and  transparency of Mr. Abedini’s trial,” spokesman Darby Holladay said in a  statement.

Iran’s state news agency reported last Monday that Abedini,  who was born in Iran but now lives in Idaho, would soon be free. But the report,  which came on the first day of Abedini’s trial, was seen by Abedini’s wife,  Naghmeh, as just another cruel manipulation.

“This is all a lie by the Iranian media,” Naghmeh Abedini  said. “This has been a repeated promise by the Iranian regime since Saeed was  first thrown in prison on Sept. 26, 2012. We have presented bail. After the  judge told Saeed’s lawyer that bail was back on the table, the family in Tehran  ran around in circles today to make sure Saeed was let out on bail. But again  the bail officer rejected bail.”

She said her husband’s attorney in Iran,  Nasser  Sarbazi, cautioned her that the report, first carried by the state-controlled  ISNA news agency and picked up by The Associated Press, did not mean her husband  was closer to freedom.

The 34-year-old father of two denied evangelizing in Iran  and claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an  orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the  notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

The exact crimes he is accused of only became public on  Monday, when the prosecutor outlined charges that Abedini undermined the Iranian  government by creating a network of Christian house churches and that he was  attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.

“This trial apparently is focused on 13 years ago, when  Pastor Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity,” Sekulow said in a statement  to FoxNews.com last week.

According to the ACLJ, upon hearing the news of her  husband’s sentence, Naghmeh Abedini said: “The promise of his release was a  lie. We should not trust the empty words or promises put out by the Iranian  government. These false hopes amount to psychological torture. You  don’t want to trust them, but they build a glimmer hope before the crushing  blow. With today’s development I am devastated for my husband and my  family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop  until Saeed is safely on American soil.”

FoxNews.com’s Perry Chiaramonte  contributed to this report. 

The Associated Press contributed to  this report.

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/01/27/iran-sentences-american-pastor-saeed-abedini-to-8-years-in-prison/#ixzz2JDx0So2m

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