KARAJ, Iran — The wife of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran for conducting missionary and humanitarian work in the nation says that her husband was distressed last week after watching several fellow prisoners being beaten and led off to their death.
“Saeed was quite shaken as he had to witness six fellow prisoners being beaten and taken to be executed (hanged) that day,” said Naghmeh Abedini of Idaho, who receives updates from her husband’s parents. “It was a hard and dark day having witnessed that and seeing life being taken. The prison visit was also very hard as the families of those who were executed were crying and wailing.”
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—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 two years behind bars.
In November 2013, Abedini was transported to Rajai Shahr Prison, which was believed to pose an even greater threat to Abedini’s health and safety. Last May, while obtaining treatment at a local hospital for injuries sustained from beatings, he was likewise beaten and returned to prison.
Abedini’s wife requested a face-to-face meeting with Barack Obama in January as he was scheduled to speak at an area university. She later told reporters that Obama advised her that “getting Saeed out is a top priority and he is working very hard to get Saeed home back to our family.”
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been fighting to the pastor’s release, says that Abedini’s safety remains a concern.
“Pastor Saeed remains in an incredibly dangerous situation. Summary executions, inmate violence, and beatings are commonplace, particularly in Rajai Shahr prison,” Executive Director Jordan Sekulow wrote in an update on Friday. “Pastor Saeed also remains in poor health, suffering from internal injuries sustained from these prison beatings.”
The organization continues to work with the U.S. government to urge that more be done to help free the American pastor.
“Last week, our team and Pastor Saeed’s wife met with the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, David Sapertsein and his team at the U.S. State Department,” Sekulow said. “We discussed with the Ambassador our ongoing concerns about Pastor Saeed’s health and Iran’s ongoing denial to provide Saeed necessary medical treatment. Importantly, we implored the Ambassador to do all that he could in his authority to bring Pastor Saeed home.”
Abedini said that last week’s visit with Saeed’s parents was also particularly somber as his son’s seventh birthday nears, and he has not seen him since he was four years old. Jacob Abedini had asked Obama last month to bring his father home for his birthday.