U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini was robbed at knifepoint at Iran's Rajai Shahr prison, the American Center for Law and Justice confirmed, sparking further fears for his life.
"Pastor Saeed is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives. Pastor Saeed's 'cell' is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share, allowing dangerous prisoners – murderers and rapists – unfettered access to him 24 hours a day," ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow shared in an update earlier this week.
"He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene."
The ACLJ, which represents Abedini's wife and two children back in America, added that as a result of the "deplorable conditions" in prison and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication, the pastor's health has deteriorated. His condition had been improving back at Evin prison, where he began serving his eight-year sentence for his Christian faith, but now at Rajai Shahr he is being denied the medical attention that he needs.
The law group has been campaigning on the pastor's behalf and has led a global effort calling for his release, though so far Iranian authorities have refused to comply. Most recently, the ACLJ criticized the U.S. government for releasing an Iranian nuclear scientist as part of negotiation talks with the Islamic Republic, while failing to strike a deal for Abedini's release.
"This is betrayal," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "A betrayal because not only did they not get the release of the three Americans, but they said they are working on this 'on the margins.' Our citizens are on the margins and then we are releasing an Iranian convicted on working on the nuclear issue."
Abedini sustained injuries after repeated beatings inside Evin prison, which caused internal bleeding and pain in his stomach and kidneys. While the pastor's family in Iran has finally been allowed to visit him, he continues to be denied vital medication.
Poor hygiene conditions in the current prison are also causing Abedini to suffer from lice, and he is experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infection and significant joint pain.
"The conditions he faces are unfathomable. He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis," Sekulow lamented, adding that he and Jay Sekulow are currently in Berlin meeting with foreign dignitaries and world leaders about Abedini's case.
"We must not forget Pastor Saeed. We must take action now," he stressed, noting that Iran has sent the pastor to Rajai Shahr to 'disappear.' "The time is now to pressure Iran for his release. Each day could be his last."
Over 115,000 people have signed a petition calling on renewed international sanctions on Iran until it abandons its nuclear program and frees Abedini.