American pastor convicted and sentenced to eight years in Iranian prison

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Iranian judge Jan. 27 convicted American pastor Saeed Abidini, imprisoned in Iran for his faith, and sentenced him to eight years in prison.

Judge Pir-Abassi, known as the "hanging judge," verbally convicted and sentenced Abidini for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. Abidini will serve his time in Evin Prison, which is known to be one of the most brutal prisons in Iran.

"This is a real travesty — a mockery of justice," said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, who represents Abidini's wife and children living in the U.S.

"From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights.  We call on the citizens of the world to rise up in protest.  We call on governments around the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed," said Sekulow.

Abidini, an American citizen, and his attorney were permitted to attend just one day of his trial, which began January 21st. During his imprisonment, Abidini has been beaten and tortured raising serious concerns about his medical condition.

According to the ACLJ, Abidini's conviction and sentence in the Iranian Revolutionary Court had to be approved at the very top by The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Abidini's wife released a statement after learning about the Iranian court's ruling.

"The promise of his release was a lie," said Naghmeh Abidini. "We should not trust the empty words or promises put out by the Iranian government. These false hopes amount to psychological torture. You don't want to trust them, but they build a glimmer of hope before the crushing blow.

"With [this] development I am devastated for my husband and my family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil," she said.

Sekulow said that with the harsh sentence in Iran's notorious prison, Abidini will likely face life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime, simply because of his Christian faith.

The ACLJ has been working with the U.S. government and at the United Nations to generate support for Abidini. Both the White House and the U.S. State Department have condemned Iran and called for Abidini's release.

Abidini, 32, was granted U.S. citizenship in 2010 through marriage to his American wife. He and his wife, Naghmeh, have two children, a 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. In 2008, Abidini became an ordained minister with the American Evangelistic Association. Naghmeh and the children reside in the western U.S. The Iranian government does not recognize his U.S. citizenship, but for three years he travelled freely back and forth from Iran until this summer when he was put under house arrest. He was imprisoned in September.