An Iranian appeals court has rejected an appeal by Boise pastor Saeed Abedini and refused to reduce his eight-year prison sentence, according to a human rights and religious freedom group that is representing Abedini's wife and children.
According to a news release from the American Center for Law and Justice, the court decision came Sunday from Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals. The ACLJ says the two-judge panel refused to provide Abedini's lawyer a copy of the decision.
Abedini has been imprisoned in Iran since September. A U.S. citizen, he was convicted of threatening the national security of Iran for his involvement in Christian home churches from 2000 to 2005. He is being held in Iran's notorious Evin Prison.
Saeed, a Boise resident with his wife and two children since 2006, was in Iran doing humanitarian work when he was arrested and imprisoned.
While we remained hopeful that Iran would use its own appeal process to finally show respect for Pastor Saeed's basic human rights, again Iran has demonstrated an utter disregard for the fundamentals of human rights, said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, in the news release. We are exploring all options with Pastor Saeeds family, including options in this country and abroad to bring more pressure on Iran from the U.S. and other countries around the world." He continued: This legal decision also signals a new level of concern for Pastor Saeeds safety. By keeping the 8-year prison sentence in place, Pastor Saeed now potentially faces additional beatings and abuse inside Evin Prison treatment that has significantly weakened him during his first year in prison.
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, said the family will continue to fight for her husband's release.
The news out of Iran is devastating to our family, she said in the news release. In the coming days our family will be consulting with legal counsel in Iran to determine the next course of action. The family could appeal the case to the Supreme Court in Tehran or plead for the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to intervene and pardon Pastor Saeed. From past cases, we know that the decision to release my husband lies solely at the mercy of the Supreme Leader."
She also was critical of the U.S. government and President Obama, who she said has been silent about her husband's plight.
"As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic speech defending freedom by Dr. Martin Luther King, a brave American who gave his life to fight for the freedom that is so fundamental to our way of life, I am extremely disappointed that President Obama has chosen to remain silent on this critical human and religious rights case of an American imprisoned in Iran, she said.
For more information about Abedini's ordeal, visit www.SaveSaeed.org.