(Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)
Pastor Saeed Abedini has been placed in a single cell with five death row inmates in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj and is prevented from having any visitors, the American Center for Law and Justice said, raising further concerns that officials placed him there to "disappear."
"Rajai Shahr is a murders' jail. It's a violent criminals' jail," said ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow on Fox News following news that the U.S. pastor was abruptly transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran on Monday.
"He is not allowed any visitors, and he is under quarantine. He is in Ward 9, which is the murders' ward. So he's sharing a 10x10 cell with five people who have been convicted of violent crimes, these are people who are basically on death row. So unlike being in a prison that is horrendous and you may face torture, you are now imprisoned with people who are just as violent as maybe those prison guards."
Sekulow noted that recent protests in Iran against the U.S. government are evidence that certain elements in the Iranian regime are trying to undermine any change in relationship, or any negotiations between the United States and Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been described as a "moderate" in a number of reports, and in September held the first communication between U.S. and Iran leaders since 1979 when he spoke with President Barack Obama over the phone regarding Abedini's imprisonment.
The ACLJ, which represents the pastor's wife, Naghmeh, and two children in the U.S., has led an international campaign calling for his release, insisting that he was arrested during a trip in Iran and later sentenced to eight years in prison because of his Christian faith. Despite these efforts, however, Iranian authorities have refused to release Abedini, and fears are that moving him to Rajai Shahr Prison may be a way to have him murdered by other prisoners.
Sekulow brought up the 2005 comments by Dutch diplomat Loes Bijen from the embassy in Tehran, who wrote:
"Rajai Shahr is the place where political prisoners who are seen as a nuisance, are stowed away. Going to Karaj is a severe punishment. Once in there one stops to be a human being. One is put out of sight, even of human rights activists and the press. In Rajaï Shahr, political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists and drug addicts who don't hesitate to attack their cell mates. They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence."
The ACLJ executive director noted that before this incident, Abedini's health was said to be improving, but now that he is no longer allowed any visitors, his family in Iran have no idea when they will be allowed to see or hear from him again.
Naghmeh Abedini added that she is devastated by the turn of events and does not know what to tell her children.
"I am more concerned now about his safety than at any other time during his imprisonment. I can only imagine the torment and anguish he is experiencing. He is truly defenseless in this prison – defenseless from the abuse and violence of other prisoners – defenseless from a radical government that continues to violate his rights," she wrote.