ASHEVILLE, North Carolina — An American pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for over three years is now speaking about his time behind bars, acknowledging that he and others were beaten by Iranian authorities.
“In interrogation, once they beat me very badly,” Saeed Abedini told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren on Monday, “because they wanted me to write something [to admit guilt], which I didn’t do that.”
“It actually was in a courtroom where the judge closed the door and the interrogators started beating me, which in that time, I had stomach bleeding,” he said.
“They beat you with their fist?” Van Susteren asked.
“Yes,” Abedini replied.
He said that he was soon threatened that he was going to be placed with other prisoners who would “beat him to death.” Abedini stated he was indeed beaten badly by his cellmates, but “God saved me over there.” At one point, he was even beaten in the head with a heavy iron chair, the pastor shared.
Abedini said that Iranian authorities adiditionally tried to intimidate him by stating that they would track him after he is released.
“They said, ‘When you finish your sentence, and you go to the U.S., we always follow you, and if you continue the thing that you did, we’re going to kill you,'” he explained, noting that Iran had killed another pastor.
Abedini said that when he was first arrested and brought before the judge, he was accused of conspiring to take down the Iranian government with Christianity. He tried to explain that he was not seeking to do so, but was merely helping orphaned children and sharing the gospel, but his response was not received.
“The judge said, ‘You know why you are here,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m here because of my Christian faith and starting house churches all over Iran,” Abedini recalled. “And the judge said, ‘No, you are not here for this. You are here because you want to use Christianity to remove government.'”
“And it was like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. I just came here to start [an] orphanage, loving people and [to] share the gospel with people and just that,'” Abedini recalled. “And he said, ‘No, you guys are using Christianity to remove the government.'”
When he said the would pray for the magistrate, the judge began yelling. He spent two months in solitary confinement, part of the time with his eyes covered, before being moved to more dangerous locations.
Abedini told Van Susteren that he witnessed others being beaten behind bars and observed the guards taking prisoners to be hanged each Wednesday.
“They were scared, and so the soldiers would take their hands, their feet [and] grab them like when they take a lamb for the slaughtering,” he remembered. “It was very graphic things, what I saw when they took people for execution.”
As previously reported, Abedini, a former Iranian Muslim turned Christian, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and two children to find religious freedom after facing conflict with authorities for planting house churches in the county. In 2012, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents when he was taken into custody.
He was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, but was transferred to to Rajai Shahr Prison in 2013, where he remained until two weeks ago when he was set free in a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran.