- (Photo: aclj.org)
Alarming news over the trial of American Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran has emerged, with his family sharing that he has been removed from Evin Prison without Iranian authorities disclosing his whereabouts.
After two days of trial, Judge Pir-Abassi, a notorious "hanging" judge in Iran, apparently told Pastor Abedini's lawyer, Dr. Naser Sarbazi, that he would see to the pastor being moved from his current ward in Evin Prison in Tehran to another ward, where he would receive better medical treatment.
When his family attempted to visit him on Thursday at the prison, however, Iranian guards told them that he was not there. His present location remains undisclosed, Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, said in a statement. The law group is currently representing Abedini's two children and wife, Naghmeh Abedini, who he married after converting to Christianity in 2000.
"While Pastor Saeed is often able to call his family in Tehran on Wednesdays, they received no communication from him this past Wednesday. And when they went to visit him this morning, they were told he was not there," Sekulow explained. "The guard who monitors visitation did not know where he was but told the family to come back on Saturday when the main office for Evin is open (it is the equivalent of the weekend in Iran now) and request the information."
Pastor Abedini is facing a lengthy jail sentence or even the death penalty if convicted of leading Muslim youths in Iran to convert to Christianity. The pastor has pleaded not guilty, and the ACLJ has explained that he has spent the last several years going back and forth between Iran and the U.S. helping underground Christian churches and establishing a non-denominational orphanage for underprivileged children. He was arrested in September 2012 after such a visit.
"We know that Pastor Saeed has undergone intense pains after beatings in interrogations while in his current prison ward, and a transfer would allow him to receive improved medical care," Sekulow said in the latest press release.
"And while we and Pastor Saeed's family are hopeful that Pastor Saeed was transferred to ward 305, the fact that his whereabouts are unknown to his family and attorney is cause for concern."
The pastor has also shared with his wife fears that he might be executed for his Christian faith, as the charges against him are reportedly commonly used in Iran as a smokescreen to target believers who are seen as a threat to Islam.
Calls continue to the U.S. State Department to look into the case and demand for the immediate release of Pastor Abedini. The ACLJ is urging the public to sign a petition in support of his release.