A new congressional hearing has been set next week for American pastor Saeed Abedini's case, with his wife, Naghmeh, and the American Center for Law and Justice hoping that President Barack Obama and Congress will make saving his life a top priority.
"The life of a U.S. citizen – whose only 'crime' is his Christian faith – is at stake," said ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow.
The law group, which represents Naghmeh and the couple's two children in the U.S., has been pushing hard for the pastor's release, calling on the Obama administration to do everything possible to get him back home to his family. Abedini, who is currently serving eight years in prison, was transferred last month from the political prisoner ward of Evin prison to the violent criminal ward of Rajai Shahr prison, which the ACLJ described as "the deadliest prison in Iran."
"The hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, chaired by Representative Chris Smith (NJ), and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, chaired by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), will focus on Pastor Saeed's worsening plight," Sekulow explained, adding that the hearing is set for Dec. 12 at 9:30 a.m.
The ACLJ has been critical of the U.S. government's failure to bring up Abedini's case during recent nuclear negotiations with Iran. It argued that the Obama administration missed a good opportunity to force the Islamic Republic to release the U.S. pastor and other prisoners of conscience.
The pastor has been repeatedly robbed and threatened at knifepoint in the new prison, and has been suffering from several health issues as a result of severe beatings back in Evin prison. Iranian officials have refused to provide him with the proper medication that he needs, however, and the ACLJ has said that his family fears his life is in great danger.
"The U.S. State Department and the Obama Administration must make Pastor Saeed's freedom a true priority," Sekulow insisted.
Previous Congressional hearings for Abedini have focused on shining a light on the abuse he and other Christians in Iran are facing, with the ACLJ calling the first such hearing in March a "historic moment" in which "the world truly becomes aware of Christian persecution in Muslim lands."
Naghmeh Abedini has also been very vocal about her husband's plight, and spoke directly with the United Nations Human Rights Council in June.
"Iran has kept Saeed imprisoned because he believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for forgiveness of sin and to reconcile humanity to God," Naghmeh said.
"I call on this body to do more. Each member state here has an obligation, and I respectfully ask that you join me in this fight. Please help bring my husband home to me and our two young kids."