An American pastor incarcerated in Iran was recently beaten at a local hospital and returned to prison, according to reports.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) issued an update on Tuesday that the family members of Saeed Abedini confirmed that the pastor had been “severely beaten” at an Iranian hospital and “forcibly returned to prison.”
As previously reported, Abedini, a former Muslim turned Christian, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and children to find religious freedom. Last fall, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents—and was about to return to the states—when he was taken into custody.
Abedini was later charged with threatening the national security of Iran, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he has spent the past year. In November, he was transported to Rajai Shahr Prison, which was believed to pose an even greater threat to Abedini’s health and safety.
In March, Abedini made headlines as matters turned abruptly hostile just as he was set to receive treatment for injuries resulting from his numerous beatings.
“Iranian guards lashed out violently against Pastor Saeed and an elderly relative who had been able to visit him in the hospital,” Executive Director Jordan Sekulow wrote in an update. “Pastor Saeed was pinned down and shackled. His elderly relative was roughly handled and expelled from the hospital. … They are refusing to provide him with anything more than mere pain medication. They have denied him surgery—the only treatment that will help. They have even denied him test results.”
However, Iranian officials soon reversed course, calling the incident a “mistake.” Abedini’s conditions and treatment began to improve and family members were again allowed to visit.
But the situation turned violent again this month when Abedini was beaten at the hospital and sent back to prison.
“This is an extremely disappointing development—one that breaks my heart,” Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, said in the update released by the ACLJ. “Our family is deeply saddened and we continue to pray for Saeed—for his safety and his release. We are very grateful that so many people around the world continue to pray for Saeed.”
Naghmeh has pleaded for government intervention to free her husband on numerous occasions.
“My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He is suffering because he is an American,” Naghmeh Abedini told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last December. “Yet, his own government, at least the executive and diplomatic representatives, has abandoned him. Don’t we owe it to him as a nation to stand up for his human rights, for his freedom?”
The Obama administration has called for Abedini’s release, but some believe that increased pressure should be placed upon Iran to free the imprisoned pastor.