There may be a ‘glimmer of hope’ for the release of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran, according to a Christian legal organization that has been fighting on behalf of the Christian minister.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) notes that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was recently asked about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini of Idaho by a reporter with CNN.
“We have various clemency measures in Iran that can be introduced, happened in the past, can be introduced again in these cases,” Zarif responded.
However, he noted that he is not in a place of authority to grant clemency.
“That is something for the judiciary to decide,” Zarif stated.
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.
Last week, it was reported that Abedini was transferred out of the murderer ward and into the political prisoner ward, but the ACLJ advised that Abedini still had serious health concerns.
“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.”
But Abedini has not yet had the surgery. Nonetheless, Sekulow characterizes the latest development as a “glimmer of hope.”
“Could Iran be willing to give Pastor Saeed clemency? Could it be willing to release him to return to his wife and two children here in the U.S.?” he asked. “One thing is for sure: Pastor Saeed’s release would be a monumental humanitarian gesture for Iran. Clemency would give Iran the opportunity, within their own judicial system, to release Pastor Saeed and show the world that it is serious about changing its human rights’ record.”
The ACLJ also notes that Senator Rand Paul sent a letter this week to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, requesting that Abedini be released.
“I am writing to you today to urge you to commute the sentence of Pastor Saeed Abedini and release him from prison,” he wrote. “[G]ranting clemency to Pastor Abedini and allowing him to return to the United States would do much to create a positive atmosphere that would reflect well on future discussions.”
The organization is now asking supporters to likewise sign a new petition urging clemency for Abedini.