Iranian-American pastor given 8 year jail sentence

28 Jan 2013

Mr Saeed Abedinigalangashi, a convert to Christianity with dual United States/Iranian nationality, was sentenced to eight years in prison on 27 January for "actions against the national security of Iran." His lawyer told Mohabat News that the charges against him concern the planting of house churches that are "intended to undermine national security."

Arrested on a family visit to Iran

Mr Abedinigalangashi, also known as Mr Abedini, was arrested in September 2012 while in Iran on a family visit. His case was heard at the Revolutionary Court Branch 26 in Tehran on 21 January by Pir-Abbassi, a notoriously harsh judge who is on the Council of the European Union's list of Iranian officials and agencies against whom sanctions were instituted. There was no public access to the courtroom, and Mr Abedini had limited access to his legal representative. According to Mr Abedini's wife, his lawyer will appeal the charges within 20 days.

Accusation dates back to when Mr Abedini converted to Christianity

The accusation against Mr Abedini dates back to the year 2000, when he converted to Christianity. According to the official case file, which his lawyer only received in January 2013, despite the fact that his client has been detained since September 2012, the charge is based primarily on Mr Abedini's past leadership position in a house church network.

Mr Abedini was detained on 26 September 2012, after security officers raided his parent's home and was taken to Evin prison, where he was held in solitary confinement, before being moved to a general prison within the political section of Evin Prison in November 2012. He is reported to have suffered physical assaults on several occasions, and has also been subject to psychological pressure.

Authorities demand $330,000 for his release

On several occasions, Mr Abedini's family was promised he would be released on bail; however this did not materialise. The authorities had earlier demanded 400 million Tomans (equivalent to approximately USD$330,000) for his release.

Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, "CSW is deeply concerned by the lack of due process in Mr Abedini's case. There should be no doubt that while the charges against Mr Abedini are couched in political terms, in reality these charges stem from his conversion and from exercising the freedom to worship in communion with others in accordance with article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We urge the Iranian authorities to uphold the rule of law, review the sentence handed down to Mr Abedini, and respect the principle of freedom of religion and belief, as outlined in the ICCPR, to which Iran is signatory."

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Pastor Benham Irani's health is in critical condition and there is a very real chance he will die in Ghezal Hesar prison if he remains in his current condition.

Email the head of Iran's judiciary now to demand urgent medical treatment for Pastor Irani, and plead for his release from unjust imprisonment.


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