An American pastor imprisoned in Iran has repeatedly been robbed and threatened at knifepoint since being relocated to a new and more dangerous prison, reports state.
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.
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.
Last month, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been fighting for Abedini’s freedom, reported that the pastor had been transported to a facility that poses an even greater threat to his health and life. Now, the organization has confirmed that Abedini is indeed in danger.
“Pastor Saeed is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives,” ACLJ Executive Director Jay Sekulow wrote in a recent update about the matter. “He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.”
He stated that in addition to the recurring violence, Abedini’s health is also declining.
“As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison, and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication which is being withheld by prison authorities, Pastor Saeed’s health has quickly deteriorated,” Sekulow said. “The pain in his stomach has returned and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys.”
“To make matters worse, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to his body being covered head to toe in lice,” he continued. “Because of the lice and increased pain, Pastor Saeed has been having trouble sleeping.”
Sekulow stated that Abedini is also experiencing joint pain and is believed to be suffering from a urinary tract infection.
Sekulow, along with Abedini’s wife Naghmeh, have been asked to testify about the pastor’s plight this Thursday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington. D.C. The ACLJ says that it is important that Congress speak out on behalf of Abedini as his release was not secured—nor even mentioned—in the Obama administration’s recent negotiations with Iran.
“We must not forget Pastor Saeed,” Sekulow stated. “We must take action now.”
In the meantime, the ACLJ is asking supporters to sign a petition to Barack Obama to work harder to help secure the release of Pastor Abedini. Obama had spoken with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about his concerns in September, but no new developments have been reported.