An American pastor imprisoned in Iran has been moved to a political prisoner ward and out of the murderer ward of the dangerous prison where he has been incarcerated since November of this year.
As previously reported, Pastor Saeed Abedini of Idaho, 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.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working toward Abedini’s release, the pastor’s parents were able to visit him on Wednesday for the first time in six weeks. The organization reports that while Abedini has seen a “slight improvement in his treatment,” concerns remain about his health.
“He continues throwing up on a regular basis and is still experiencing significant pain in his abdomen,” Executive Director Jordan Sekulow outlined in a blog post. “Since being moved within the prison, Pastor Saeed was able to see a prison doctor who was very concerned about his internal injuries. The prison doctor recommended that he receive surgery and provided him medication to ease his pain.”
Sekulow notes that Abedini’s health issues are likely related to the beatings he suffered while in Evin Prison. He was denied medication for a time after being transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison, but just recently received pain medication—albeit not the medicine that he was originally prescribed. Abedini’s family is now requesting that the government allow the pastor to obtain the surgery at a private hospital.
Nonetheless, Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said that the latest development—although minor—is an encouragement to her.
“There is a glimmer of comfort to know that my husband has been transferred out of the murderers’ ward, but my heart aches to know the pain he continually suffers and that his injuries necessitate surgery,” she stated. “As a family, it is difficult to be so far away and unable to comfort him in his pain. Though we are encouraged by the transfer to the new ward, such a small step is far from an unconditional release where Saeed is reunited with our family. While this development is welcomed, we desperately await his return home.”
As the ACLJ notes that Abedini remains in a dangerous location, it asks that Christians continue to pray for his release and to sign a petition requesting that Congress place sanctions on Iran.
“The Iranian regime continues to wrongfully imprison Pastor Saeed—a U.S. citizen—for his Christian faith in the deadliest prison in Iran,” Sekulow said. “Until Pastor Saeed is free to return to his wife and two young children in the U.S., we must never give up. We must continue to pressure Iran for his freedom.”