TEHRAN — A pastor from California was arrested on Monday while conducting a protest in Iran surrounding five Christians that he believes have been unlawfully imprisoned in the country.
Eddie Romero of La Puente was taken into custody as he spoke outside of Evin Prison, where the Christians are being held. Reports state that he had been traveling with a tourist group overseas this month, and broke away from the group last Thursday to go missing for a time. He crossed into Iran from Turkey, and then was spotted standing in front of the prison speaking in several languages.
Romero recorded a video prior to the arrest, which he posted on his ministry website, Exodus8One. The footage indicates that he anticipated being arrested, but called the apprehension “an honor.”
“I said out loud, ‘The Lord says, let My people go so that they may worship Me,'” he explains, quoting from the Book of Exodus. “There are five men in there that are undeserving to be behind these walls.”
“These are men of faith and conscience that bring good to society and nothing bad at all,” Romero continued, outlining his speech. “So, I call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to release these five noble persons.”
The pastor, professor and activist was referring to Farshid Fathi, an Iranian pastor; Saeed Abedini, an Iranian native and American citizen who was arrested while building an orphanage in the country; Mostafa Bordbar, an Iranian Christian activist; Alireza Seyyedian, a member a house church in the country; and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, an Iranian attorney and co-founder of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran.
He broadcast his protest live in front of the prison on UStream until the feed cut out.
“He surrendered willingly and was taken inside the gates of the prison by a guard into a sort of waiting room,” Romero’s daughter, Sara Yetter, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “He was heard being questioned about where he was from by someone in English, and he was heard repeating his appeal for the prisoners seven more times.”
Yetter said that she does not know the fate of her father at this time.
“We do not know the current status of Pastor Eddie—where he has been taken or what is currently happening to him,” she told the publication. “His last known whereabouts were inside Evin Prison.”
Romero, a former volunteer with the Christian organization China Aid, had conducted a similar protest at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and again in Los Angeles last year during a visit from Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping. He was arrested both times as well.
“As a pastor, I must raise my voice to injustice; as a professor of philosophy, I know the ethical thing to do; and as the director of China Aid Los Angeles, I would be negligent of my duties to let this moment pass in silence,” he stated last year prior to his arrest in Los Angeles.
It is not yet known whether Iranian officials have filed charges against Romero.