By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R) from Haleyville joined several other Congressmen in calling for the U.S. State Department to demand that American citizen, Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini, be released from prison by the Government of Iran.
Congressman Aderholt said, “The First Amendment of the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Unfortunately there are too many places in the world where religious freedom does not exist. I have been a longtime advocate for international human rights and religious freedom and recently have been involved in the case of Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, who has been unlawfully imprisoned in Iran, because of his Christian beliefs and humanitarian work. Since his imprisonment he has suffered physical and psychological abuse and has been continuously denied medical care.”
Rep. Aderholt recently attended the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) on Capitol Hill where Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, testified.
Representative Aderholt said, “I had the honor and privilege to be there, to hear her story and to ask what more my colleagues and I can do to bring attention to this case and bring Pastor Abedini home. The State Department was invited to testify at this hearing, however, they failed to send a representative to the hearing. In fact, the State Department had not made any public statements about the Pastor Abedini case and had failed to advocate for the release of this U.S. citizen from prison in this hostile nation. After the hearing, I joined several of my colleagues on a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking again for the Department to intervene in this case. Since the hearing, Secretary Kerry has finally made an official statement condemning Iran’s actions in detaining Pastor Abedini and calling for his immediate release. While I am encouraged by Secretary Kerry’s involvement, we cannot rest until Pastor Abedini is reunited with his wife and their two small children here at home.”
Rev. Abedini was convicted by an Iranian Court on Sunday government and is set to face trial next week for his involvement in the Iranian Christian House Church movement.
Representative Aderholt said, “Pastor Abedini’s arrest, trial and now conviction for his Christian and humanitarian efforts in Iran are completely unjust and are another sad example of Iran’s blatant disregard for religious freedom, the rule of law and its international commitments. Pastor Abedini is an American citizen, who has done nothing but try to bring good to Iran, through his humanitarian efforts including founding an orphanage, and practicing the faith in which he believes. He should be released immediately and sent home to the United States to be with his wife and children.”
According to information provided Rep. Aderholt’s office Saeed Abedini is a 32-year-old American citizen. Mr. Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity when he was a teenager. Following his conversion, Mr. Abedini established a number of house churches in Iran, where Christian converts gathered to worship. In 2005, Mr. Abedini and his American wife moved to the United States. In 2009 Abedini was arrested by the intelligence police in a visit with his family in Tehran. The intelligence police claimed that his activities were undermining national security. The police asserted that Mr. Abedini deserved to die because of his conversion to Christianity from Islam. Mr. Abedini was released on bail under an agreement that the Regime would not try him if he ceased work with the house churches. Mr. Abedini agreed and shifted his focus in Iran to humanitarian endeavors, including starting an orphanage in Rasht, Iran. Mr. Abedini was periodically interrogated about his activities in Iran but the Iranian government honored its end of the agreement.
This changed on July 28, 2012, when Mr. Abedini was lawfully entering Iran from Turkey. The Revolutionary Guard stopped his bus and detained him. His passports were seized and he was ordered to remain in Iran to face trial for his Christian activities. On September 26, 2012, the Revolutionary Guard raided Mr. Abedini’s parents’ home. All religious materials were confiscated, the home ransacked, and Mr. Abedini was taken into custody and imprisoned, “at the infamously brutal Evin prison.” At Evin, Mr. Abedini has been interrogated, repeatedly beaten, has often been in solitary confinement, and has been denied access to legal counsel.
Iranian Judge Pir-Abassi sentenced Pastor Saeed Abedini to eight years in Evin prison for ‘threatening the national security of Iran,’ because of his Christian activities.
Congressman Aderholt said, “Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental rights any and every individual should have. The wrongful detention of Christian Pastor Abedini, a United States citizen, because of his faith and humanitarian efforts, violates the most basic human rights and Iran’s international commitments. No one should be discriminated against or persecuted because of their faith.” “Iran has a long and troubling track record on a variety of human rights issues. Of particular note is Iran’s regular and severe persecution of religious minorities — especially Christians. In Iran, simply exercising the fundamental human right of religious freedom carries with it the threat of harsh and lengthy imprisonment, and in some cases even death.”
Rep. Aderholt is a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
Congressman Robert Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.