Iranian-American pastor sentenced to eight years in prison over Christian faith

( A 32-year-old Iranian-American pastor has been convicted and sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison because of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Judge Pir-Abassi of the Iranian Revolutionary Court, known as the “hanging judge,” unexpectedly convicted and sentenced the Reverent Saeed Abedini, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Christian convert, from the bench on Monday morning. He accused the pastor of threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches, according to ACLJ. No members of Abedini’s family were present.  

Abedini was arrested in September while visiting his family in Iran. He is one of the leaders of an underground church movement in Iran. Made up of Christian converts, the movement claims to operate more than 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities, with more than 2,000 members.

According to ACLJ, Abedini and his attorney were barred from the proceedings after the first day of the trial on January 21. Abedini’s family also attempted to present bail, but they were turned away and threatened by a court administrator.

Reports from earlier in the week by the Iranian media that were picked up by the Associated Press suggested that Abedini would be freed on bail. Abedini’s wife Naghmeh, however, said those reports were a “lie” and park of a “game to silence the international media,” according to Fox News.

The ACLJ has been working with Abedini’s family and supporters. It has created a petition urging the U.S. State Department to secure his release.

Posted on January 24, 2013 .