Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2013 / 05:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Human rights advocates gathered in front of the White House last week to pray and raise awareness for Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has been held in an Iranian prison for the past year.
Jordan Sekulow, director of policy and international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, told CNA that the vigil’s first goal is to “keep Saeed alive.”
“The second,” he continued, “is to bring him home. The third goal and focus of this week is to make sure that no more Iranian officials can ever say ‘I’ve never heard of Saeed Abedini’ and make sure that the president of the United States knows that he has to speak out.”
Sekulow’s organization represents Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, in working for the pastor’s release.
The Sept. 26 protest marked the one-year anniversary of Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran’s Evin Prison on charges of threatening national security. Human rights groups, however, maintain that the pastor’s Christian faith is the real reason for his eight-year sentence.
Raised Muslim in Iran, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010 after marrying a U.S. citizen.
After his conversion, he worked with house churches throughout Iran until 2009, when the government raised objections, despite the fact that the churches are technically legal in the country. Since then, human rights groups say that the pastor has worked solely with non-religious orphanages in the country. He was arrested in the fall of 2012 during a visit to one of these orphanages.
According to his family, Abedini has suffered beatings and numerous injuries – which have gone untreated – during his time in prison. Although he sought an appeal of his conviction, his request was denied, leaving his eight-year sentence in place.
Since his imprisonment, numerous countries and officials have called for Abedini’s release, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Roughly 100 people attended the Washington, D.C., vigil on Sept. 26, which coincided with other vigils throughout the country and around the world, in countries including Kenya, Russia and Pakistan.
Local pastors attended the vigil, along with Congressional Representatives Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Abedini has received bipartisan support from some 100 congressman and senators during his imprisonment, in the form of letters and statements asking for his release.
An official at the Sept. 26 event read a letter to Abedini’s (Read More)