- (Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)
On day two of American Pastor Saeed Abedini's trial in Iran, news has emerged that the Iranian-born pastor has not even been allowed to attend the day's proceedings.
"It's unlike any judicial system in the world," Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, said in a press release shared with The Christian Post on Tuesday.
"Pastor Saeed and his attorney were shut out of today's proceedings. Not permitted to attend his own trial. We have been told that the court summoned other pastors to testify today. We do not yet know what was said in court, but we do know that the Iranian government often uses threats and intimidation to get the testimony it wants," Sekulow added.
The law group has called the trial a "sham," especially considering that the pastor's lawyer in Iran was only allowed 24 hours to speak with the defendant before court proceedings began.
Pastor Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000, and married Naghmeh Abedini, an American citizen. He has helped underground Christian churches in Iran, who are a strict minority, and for the past several years has made trips back and forth between America and Iran working to establish an orphanage for underprivileged children in the Middle East country.
He was arrested by Iranian officials in Sept. 2012 and has been in Evin Prison in Tehran ever since, awaiting trial allegedly for trying to convert other Islamic youth to Christianity in 2000, which is a crime punishable by long term imprisonment or even death.
The ACLJ, which is representing Naghmeh Abedini and the couple's two children in America, noted that on Monday, during Pastor Abedini's first day of trial, his lawyer was allowed to present a strong case before the Revolutionary Guard Court in Tehran, but that all changed on Tuesday during the second day of the trial when the pastor wasn't even allowed to attend the proceedings.
"Today, there was a confirmed hearing with a Christian believer who had worked alongside Saeed. Saeed's judge, without Saeed or his lawyer present, questioned this individual about converting to Christianity, working with Saeed, and involvement in the house churches," Naghmeh Abedini shared in a statement about day two of the trial.
"The judge told this individual to expect a summons within a month to return to testify against Saeed. What was released by the Iranian media yesterday was clearly a lie. As Saeed told me during one of our conversations, he suspected the regime planned to hold him in prison for a long time. This testimony today is further proof that Iran was just trying to silence the media and has no intention of releasing my husband anytime soon," Mrs. Abedini added.
On Monday, Iranian authorities claimed that the pastor had been released on bail, but his wife maintained that the story was a lie by the Iranian media.
"We have presented bail. After the Judge told Saeed's lawyer that bail was back on the table, the family in Tehran ran around in circles today to make sure Saeed was let out on bail. But again the bail officer rejected bail. This is a game to silence the international media," said Mrs. Abedini on Monday.
"The ACLJ is doing all that we can to get the U.S. government to fully engage in Pastor Saeed's case. Sadly, there's still silence from the State Department and Secretary of State Clinton. No public call for his immediate release. No condemnation of the imprisonment of this U.S. citizen," Sekulow added.
However, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) has spoken out on Pastor Abedini's case. The NSC is used by President Barack Obama for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisers and cabinet officials.
"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," NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor has said. "We call upon Iranian authorities to release him immediately.
According to the ACLJ, more than 180,000 people have signed a petition demanding Pastor Abedini's release and are monitoring his trial closely.