The wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American sentenced to 8 years of prison in Iran, expressed her shock at the punishment her husband was given.
"It was a complete shock. The way it was handled by the court was shocking," Naghmeh Abedini said, according to KTVB.
"My first emotion went to my kids. I have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old, and she will be a teenager the next time she sees her dad and that was pretty devastating and what do I tell them? My daughters heard me say eight years and she said 'what's eight years?' They've been praying every night, and every day they ask is Daddy coming home today? And I didn't want to take that hope away from them and with all the help and support he will come home soon."
On Sunday, after only a week of what some have called a "sham" trial, the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran deemed Pastor Abedini guilty of "threatening the national security" of Iran for helping underground Christian churches in his home country. He was sentenced to eight years in Tehran's Evin Prison, where he has been held since his arrest during a trip back to Iran in September 2012.
The sentence was delivered by Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26, a notorious "hanging judge" accused by the European Union of human right abuses for hastily sentencing a number of human rights advocates to death.
While Abedini was spared the death sentence, he now faces years behind bars in what has been deemed one of the most ruthless prisons in the world. The Iran-born U.S. citizen, who converted to Christianity in 2000 before marrying Naghmeh, an American, recently described the mistreatment he received before trial, saying he was beaten and forced by officers to confess to trying to convert Muslim youths in Iran to Christianity.
Naghmeh told KTVB that her husband had not broken any of Iran's strict religious laws, and all that he was trying to do in his repeated visits to his homeland was build a non-sectarian orphanage for disadvantaged children.
"He has said he has great hope, and that he is going to get out," she shared of the pastor's state of mind. "Even when he heard his sentence, I believe, it was devastating to our family, but he says he still has hope and will fight."
Naghmeh said she sent a message to outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Idaho's congressional delegation. Several U.S. agencies have called for the pastor's release.
Department of State Spokesperson Victoria Nuland commented, "We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal rights of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and to release him."
Over 250,000 people from around the world have alsosigned a petition started by the American Center for Law and Justice calling for the pastor's release.
The ACLJ, which is representing the pastor's wife and two young children in the U.S., said Abedini has 20 days to appeal the sentence.