The United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention strongly condemned Iran for jailing American pastor Saeed Abedini. He is currently serving his second year of an eight year sentence because he practiced his Christianity in the Muslim country.
“The deprivation of liberty of Mr. Abedini has been arbitrary, being in contravention of articles 2, 7, 10, and 19 of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights],” they said in the report. “Consequent upon the opinion rendered, the Working Group requests the Government to take necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr. Abedini and bring it into conformity with the standards and principles set forth in the UDHR and the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]. The Working Group believes that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the adequate remedy would be to release Mr. Abedini and accord him an enforceable right to compensation in accordance with article 9.5 of the ICCPR.”
Abedini holds citizenship in both Iran and the United States. Iranian authorities arrested Abedini in July 2012 following his plans to build an orphanage in Rashy, Iran. The Revolutionary Guard Corps accused him of violating the law due to his public embrace of Christianity and interrogated him before they placed him on house arrest. Officials told him that “he had attempted to undermine the national security of the country by holding Christian worship services in private homes.” He was also a national security threat, they claimed, because he openly practiced his faith outside of Iran.
The UN argues his trial was unfair– Abedini and his lawyer were not allowed to be in the room when witnesses testified. Abedini also endures attacks and threats in prison on a regular basis. Inmates beat him and threaten to hang him “for his faith in Jesus.” Others tell him they will kill him in his sleep. The UN reported in February 2013 that Abedini was suffering from internal bleeding caused by multiple beatings in prison. The prison authorities ignored his symptoms for over a month, but when they decided to bring him to a hospital, they insisted he change his uniform to one that would identify him as a convicted murderer, rather than a prisoner of conscience. He resisted, prompting another beating that exacerbated his already delicate state of health.
Abedini’s family in Iran is allowed to visit him on Mondays, but he is prohibited from calling his wife Naghmeh and two children in America. She hopes the report will move her case forward and get the United States to act on behalf of her husband.
“There are times where your cause feels forgotten — but today is not one of those days,” she said after the report was released. “From the depths of my heart, I urge the member countries of the UN to act on the recommendations of this report. As these countries sit face-to-face with Iran during the upcoming UN General Assembly, I plead with them to ask for my husband’s release. It is time for our family to be re-united. My children need their father and I need my husband.”