Christian Pastor Sentenced in Iran

Iran has sentenced Iranian-American Christian minister Saeed Abedini to eight years in prison, prompting the U.S. State Department to issue a strong condemnation of that action. Abedini was born in Iran and converted from Islam to Christianity, then came to the U.S. and became an American citizen. He has gone back to Iran many times to evangelize and to build an orphanage, but was arrested last year on his last visit.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday condemned an Iranian court for sentencing an Iranian-American Christian pastor to eight years in prison.

The State Department said it had confirmed reports of Saeed Abedini’s sentencing with the family’s attorney and called for his release.

“We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him,” State Department spokesperson Darby Holladay said.

I suspect that this was only done to give Iran a bargaining chip with the United States. It’s the equivalent of a hostage taking.

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  • eric

    I expect that’s the 80% reason. But apostasy is also punishable in some interpretations of Islam, so Iran’s clerics may be using him as an example of a new/expanded ‘get tough’ policy on people who leave the faith.

  • Don’t we usually have to do major arm twisting to get our government to acknowledge that an atheist has been imprisoned unjustly?

  • Brandon

    This is, of course, terrible. Nonetheless, I’m disinclined to have a great deal of sympathy for people that go to countries and knowingly break their laws. Sure, it’s an awful, stupid, bigoted law, but that seems like a good reason to not go to Iran, not a reason to go there and break their laws.

  • machintelligence

    Martyrdom is attractive to some folks.

  • Synfandel

    The report says that Mr. Abedini was sentenced “for threatening Iran’s national security through his leadership in Christian house churches.” Apostasy is not mentioned.

  • tbp1

    I’m sort of with Brandon on this one, and have conflicted emotions. I think the law is stupid and barbaric, but if I voluntarily go to another country and voluntarily break their laws, I am subject to whatever penalties are in force. I wouldn’t go to Singapore and smoke pot, for example. I strongly disagree with Singapore’s drug laws, but by entering their country under my own free will I am subjecting myself to their laws, including those I disagree with.

  • jba55

    If indeed he was breaking a law (not sure what “threatening Iran’s national security through his leadership in Christian house churches” actually means or what he really did) then I too have little sympathy. I think the law is appalling, but like I have to agree with Brandon and tbp1. If you go into a country and break the law, regardless of how stupid that law is, you should expect some kind of consequence.

    I also have a problem with the concept of “universal right of freedom of religion”, specifically the concept of a universal right. I’ve yet to hear a non-religious explanation for how a right can be universal, rights are a product of society and for better or for worse, societies vary. Don’t misunderstand me, I’d very much like for there to be a universal right to freedom of religion, but I don’t see how it works.

  • Draken

    Iran did sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although the current regime later took part in the drafting of a mockery of said rights called the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights.

    But I must ask myself, and others, the question: if someone goes to Uganda to defend homosexuals in court even though even that is forbidden, would I blame the stupid bastard for violating such an inhumane law? I don’t think I could.

  • jba55

    #8 I don’t think blame is the right word, in my mind it’s more of an accepting the consequences (which the pastor might be doing, I don’t know). Civil disobedience can be a noble thing, but just because you’re being noble doesn’t mean you aren’t going to pay a price.

    To be clear, I have no problem with the State Department condemning this mess, although one of the worst parts in my mind is that the defendant and his lawyer were only allowed to attend one day of the trial. I’d also be interested to know what exactly they’re trying him for, from the OP it doesn’t sound like he was arrested for being Christian. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the reason behind it all, but I don’t know enough about it and it seems like a lot of the info is coming to us through the ACLJ. Not really a very good source.

  • ryangerber

    Someone was arrested for saying things the government doesn’t like, and convicted with some flimsy national security excuse? The US couldn’t possibly let that pass without complaint.

  • freemage

    Okay, apparently the ‘house church’ movement is specifically about apostasy–it’s an underground network of former Muslims, converted to Christianity, who worship in their homes because it’s against the law for them to attend officially sanctioned churches. (Source was a Fox News report on the arrest; here’s your salt-lick.)

    Furthermore, his wife is claiming that he was not breaking the law–rather, she says that after he was detained for doing the house-church thing in 2009, he was released on an agreement that he no longer conduct religious activities when visiting the country. According to her, his current work was all about setting up an orphanage. (Whoever was writing the stories I found didn’t say whether or not this orphanage had an explicitly religious affiliation; if it did, it would’ve violated the release agreement; if not, this looks more like a ‘Changed our minds, you’re gonna have to be punished anyway” situation.) (Source for this was an Agence France-Presse report.)

  • slc1

    Re tbp1 @ #6

    It would be a very bad idea to get caught smoking lefty luckies (or littering for that matter) in Singapore. Ten lashes with a rattan cane on one’s bare derriere ain’t no fun at all,.

  • sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    his current work was all about setting up an orphanage.

    That might have annoyrd the Iranian government even more- it suggests that the Islamic republic of Iran and its islamic inhabitants are so unislamic or so incompetent that a christian apostate needs to set up an orphanage.

  • Gregg Borgg

    what kind of idiot would put Gods LAW WITH A COUNTRIES DRUG LAW LIL DIFFERENT THING , GODS owns this world and his law is the worlds law