Iran says American Tried to Turn Children Against Islam

January 23, 2013 by Open Doors in General

Saeed Abedini of Boise with his children

On Monday, the trial of Saeed Abedini, of Boise, Idaho, began in the Tehran courtroom of Abbas Pir-Abbassi, a Revolutionary Court judge notorious for harsh sentences. The American Center for Law and Justice said prosecutors presented evidence that Abedini has created “a network of Christian house churches” starting in 2000, the year he left Islam for Christianity.

“The regime alleged that Pastor Saeed intentionally sought to sway the minds of Iranian youth by turning the youth toward Christianity and against Islam, the official religion of Iran,” the center said in a prepared statement.  The American Center for Law and Justice is a Washington, D.C. based attorney group that uses litigation to press for religious and speech freedom. The Center has waged a lobbying campaign to persuade the Obama Administration to publicly demand Abedini’s release. In response, according to the World Watch Monitor (WWM), on Friday, January 18, the National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, issued a statement demanding Abedini’s release. “We remain troubled by the case of U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who was arrested by Iranian officials more than three months ago on charges relating to his religious beliefs,” Vietor said in the statement. “We call upon Iranian authorities to release him immediately.” The State Department is exploring possible avenues to persuade Iran to release Abedini. 

As reported in the WWM, Abedini’s supporters in the United States say he was in Iran last summer to complete construction of an orphanage when members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard snatched him off a bus, confiscated his passports, and threw him in prison. Since then, they say, the pastor has been subjected to solitary confinement and beatings. In a January 10th letter that Abedini managed to send from Evin, he describes being held for three months in a constantly lighted room, and provided a brief glimpse of the sky once per week.

“One day I am told I will be freed and allowed to see my family and kids on Christmas (which was a lie) and the next day I am told I will hang for my faith in Jesus,” the letter states. “One day there are intense pains after beatings and interrogations, the next day they are nice to you and offer you candy.”  Just two weeks ago, Abedini’s attorney in Iran finally received access to his case file and discovered his client would be brought into court as soon as January 21, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory panel to the administration and Congress.  At Abedini’s courtroom appearance on Monday, his father, who lives in Iran, was the only family member permitted in the courtroom. The judge, Abbas Pir-Abbassi is known for his harsh sentences. The European Union branded Pir-Abbassi, among other Iranian judges, a human-rights violator. Tiffany Barrans, international legal director for the American Center for Law and Justice, said Iranian lawyers quail at the prospect of representing human-rights cases before Pir-Abbassi. “Most lawyers know your chances of being thrown in prison merely for representing someone like Saeed are greatly increased,” she said. 

Abedini’s wife, Nagmeh, posted this account of Monday’s courtroom proceedings on the “Pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini” Facebook page:

Saeed was able to share from the Bible to the Judge and say that he was not a political person and had no political intentions, but he was a follower of His Lord Jesus Christ. There will be no more hearings and the formal charges and sentences will most likely be announced next week according to his lawyer in Iran. There seemed to have been moments when the judge was moved by Saeed’s testimony. Please continue to pray for the Judge and Saeed’s release and his return back to our family. We should be hearing some news next week.

The American Center for Law and Justice posted a report on its website claiming that several house churches lay leaders have been summoned to appear in court. It is unknown whether the judge will permit any more witnesses, or whether the trial is essentially completed.  Abedini and his wife were born to Muslim families in Iran. She moved to the United States as a child, obtained U.S. citizenship, converted to Christianity, relocated to Idaho with her family, and eventually returned to Iran to connect with her extended family, said Lauren Phillips, international outreach coordinator for Cavalry Chapel of Boise, where the Abedini and Nagmeh are members. 

While in Iran, Nagmeh met Abedini, who had converted to Christianity in 2000 and was helping to start house churches. The couple married in 2004, and moved to Idaho in 2005 after Abedini endured an interrogation session over his church activities, according to an attorney at the American Center for Law and Justice. As the spouse of an American citizen, Abedini was granted U.S. citizenship. 

Nagmeh told Boise television station KBOI two weeks ago that she has been able to speak by phone with her husband. “It was weeks and weeks before I even heard his voice,” she told the TV station. “He shared that he really misses the kids, and me, and really wants to be home.” The couple has a daughter, 6-year-old Rebekkah, and a son, 4-year-old Jacob.  “I wanted to tell him that we’re fighting for him here, but I couldn’t,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was safe. I know that his phone is being listened to. We just want to see Saeed back home.” 

Father, we pray today on behalf of Pastor Saeed Abedini, on trial for his very life. Thank You for the organizations and lawyers assisting him both here in America and in Iran. Thank You that the State Department is working on his behalf. But at its heart, this case is a spiritual battle being waged in the heavens. We pray for Your intervention, not only on behalf of Abedini, but also on behalf of Your church in Iran. We pray that You will change the heart of the judge that he will administer true justice. Thank You for the testimony of Abedini’s courage in court as he read from Your Word. Fill him and his family today and in the days to come with Your peace that is beyond understanding. We simply lay him at Your feet, confident that You will spread Your hand of protection over him, no matter the outcome. In the name of Jesus our Savior-Abedini’s Savior, Amen.

Source: Middle East Concern

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