Fears are mounting following reports that an American pastor who is imprisoned in Iran has been transferred to an even more dangerous prison in the country.
As previously reported, Pastor Saeed Abedini of Idaho, a former Muslim, 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.
According to reports, he was arrested for allegedly threatening the national security of Iran, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. Abedini was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he has spent the past year. He has struggled with internal injuries following alleged beatings behind bars, and has asked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to set him free.
However, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been fighting for Abedini’s freedom, reports that the pastor has now been transported to a facility that poses an even greater threat to his health and life.
“The ACLJ has confirmed through Pastor Saeed’s family members in Iran that he has been moved from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj—an even more dangerous prison where he faces life-threatening conditions and treatment,” Jordan Sekulow wrote on the organization’s website on Monday.
He said that it was discovered that Abedini had been transferred when a family member arrived at Evin Prison only to discover that he was not there.
“[They were] told that Pastor Saeed had been moved to this this prison outside of Tehran yesterday—about an hour and a half drive away,” Sekulow explained. “The family member traveled to Rajai Shahr Prison and was told that Pastor Saeed is imprisoned there and is not permitted to have any visitors.”
The ACLJ says that it has confirmed that Abedini is incarcerated in one of the most dangerous wards of the prison, which houses rapists and murderers.
“Rajai Shahr is the place where political prisoners who are seen as a nuisance, are stowed away,” Loes Bijnen, a Dutch diplomat at the embassy in Tehran, stated in 2005. “In Rajaï Shahr, political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists and drug addicts who don’t hesitate to attack their cell mates. They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence.”
Therefore, the ACLJ is urging Barack Obama to take immediate action to help free the imprisoned pastor.
“This new and extremely dangerous development requires the full attention and focus of President Obama,” Sekulow stated. “He must speak out now—directly and forcefully—to save Pastor Saeed’s life. Pastor Saeed’s life is in grave danger.”
Obama spoke briefly by telephone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September, but there has been no word of any further development from the White House.
In the meantime, a number of Christians worldwide are participating in a letter-writing and petition campaign launched by the ACLJ called Save Saeed. Over 170,000 letters have been written, according to reports.