- (Photo: ACLJ)
The American Center for Law and Justice received news that U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini has been severely beaten in Evin Prison in Tehran, denied proper medical care, and experiencing fainting spells.
"Pastor Saeed reported today that last week he was severely beaten when the prison officials took him to the hospital. During the weekly prison visit today, Pastor Saeed's family reported that his physical condition is worsening – seeing first-hand the marks and symptoms left by the recent beating. These beatings and the internal injuries are causing Pastor Saeed frequent fainting spells," the law group, which is representing Abedini's wife and two children back in America, revealed in a statement on Monday.
The Iranian-born pastor, who converted to Christianity and was building an orphanage for children when he was arrested in Tehran last year, was sentenced to eight years in prison in January for "endangering national security." The ACLJ called that a "sham trail," however, noting that the real reason behind Abedini's sentence was his faith.
The U.S. State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry, a number of U.S. congressmen, and the European Union have all called for the pastor's release, and more than 560,000 people from around the world have signed a petition in his support.
Inside Evin prison, Abedini has been pressured to deny his faith in Christ, and even threatened that he will not be released after the 8-year sentence unless he does so, but the pastor has refused to recant his faith.
He has been suffering from internal bleeding because of the beatings, however, and his wife Naghmeh has expressed deep concern for his well-being.
"I can not express in words how concerned I am about Saeed's physical and mental health," Naghmeh stated. "He is now continually attacked and threatened. The Iranian government should know that we are watching and aware of what they are doing to Saeed inside Evin prison. We need to speak louder until Saeed is home safely on U.S. soil."
In his own words, Abedini wrote in a letter in March: "My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown. The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others 'in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha'i (religion) and Christians are unclean!' She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had."
ACLJ added that the authorities' refusal to provide proper medical treatment to Abedini is "inhumane and a gross violation of Iran's international obligations," noting that officials have said it could be two months before the U.S. citizen received proper medical care.
The Iranian authorities have also been stepping up their psychological torture of Abedini. The pastor revealed that cellmates have been threatening to suffocate him in his sleep and try and make it look like an accident, something which the ACLJ said is weighing heavily on his mind.
The law group has launched a letter-writing campaign for Abedini's birthday, which is May 7.