The wife of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is in an Iranian prison because of his Christian faith, will speak at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday to seek member states' action on behalf of her husband, who has been tortured and is suffering from internal bleeding.
Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, and Jordan Sekulow, director of Policy and International Operations at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is raising the case before the panel, will deliver remarks to the Human Rights Council about why those persecuted for their faith need to be defended.
Naghmeh will also urge U.N. member states to take more action on behalf of her husband, who was sentenced in January to eight years in Tehran's deadly Evin Prison for "threatening the national security" by leading house churches years ago.
On Friday, Sekulow raised Pastor Saeed's case before the Council, with Naghmeh sitting beside him. "As I told the Council, she represents the face of how Iran's persecution of Christians truly has a worldwide impact," Sekulow said on ACLJ's website. "I implored the nations represented on the Human Rights Council to stand up for the most basic of human rights – the right to peaceably assemble in exercise of one's religious beliefs – and urge Iran to release Pastor Saeed Abedini."
Saeed's peaceful assembly violated no promulgated law nor has Iran demonstrated how the peaceful assembly of its religious minorities threatens its security, Sekulow said in his prepared remarks at the Council.
Iran's failure to apply the strict test of necessity and proportionality when reviewing whether to impose a restriction on an assembly, has resulted in a "severe violation of his (Saeed's) basic right to peaceful assembly and religious freedom," Sekulow said. "This violation must be addressed in order that the intersection between rights of religious expression and peaceful assembly may be reinforced as a cornerstone upon which peace may be established."
Saeed's case appears to have caught the attention of people from all over the globe. Over 600,000 people from around the world have signed a petition for Saeed's freedom at SaveSaeed.org.
In March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for Saeed's "immediate" release, after which Naghmeh appeared hopeful. "I am very encouraged by Secretary Kerry's statement demanding Saeed's immediate release," she said in a statement. But Kerry's call has not been heeded by Iran.
Saeed has been tortured.
In a letter written from prison in March, Pastor Saeed said, "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 supposed 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."
Naghmeh had earlier said she was disappointed with the U.S. government. "I'm disappointed that our president and our State Department has not fully engaged in this case," she said after the State Department did not provide a witness for a hearing at which she testified recently. "I'm disappointed that this great country is not doing more to free my husband – a U.S. citizen. Yes, we are both proud to be American citizens. And I expect more from our government."
Naghmeh, who was born in Iran, lives with their two children, aged 6 and 5, in Idaho.
Saeed – who grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20 – traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the U.S. several times in the past few years to meet his family and for Christian work. During one such trip in 2009, he was detained by Iranian officials and interrogated for his conversion. While he was released with a warning against engaging in any more underground church activities, he was once again arrested last July while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.