Pastor Saeed Abedini was arrested in Iran in 2012 while on an excursion to build a secular orphanage. He has been under Iranian custody ever since and has experienced beatings so severe Iranian authorities moved him to a hospital in March. This week, his family alleges, he was beaten in the hospital and taken back to prison.
Fox News reports that the Christian pastor had been in a hospital since March to recover from beatings he received in Iranian prisons, both from guards and fellow inmates. The move out of the prison itself was promising to his family until they allegedly witnessed beatings inside the hospital. He was then removed after being denied medical care and taken back to prison.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, told Fox News that her husband’s family directly witnessed some of the beatings. “Saeed’s family, who was present at the hospital when this occurred, witnessed the severe beatings that Saeed received – at one point seeing him collapse before being taken away. We’re very concerned about his health,” she said. They allege that the beatings, ironically, took place in the hospital shortly after he was admitted for treatment of injuries he sustained during prison beatings.
Abedini, who is from Boise, Idaho, is charged with disturbing the national security of Iran by promoting Christianity. “Pastor Saeed is an American citizen who is being punished because he’s a Christian. That was unacceptable when he was taken into custody nearly two years ago, and it is unacceptable today,” said his family’s attorney, Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Sekulow clarifies on the ACLJ website that Abedini’s transfer back to prison occurred without “any advance notice and family members in Iran confirmed that he was severely beaten at the hospital and then forcibly returned to prison.” He writes that family members in Iran said that “one of the guards who was involved in the transfer mentioned the Iranian nuclear talks as a possible motive.”
In March 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was “deeply concerned” about the state of Abedini’s health in Iran. In November 2013, a bipartisan coalition of 23 senators, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, sent a letter to President Obama urging action to release Abedini, an American citizen, from his arrest. In December, the House Foreign Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing to discuss the matter of Abedini’s captivity and torture. Abedini continues to be imprisoned, however, and these new developments indicate his treatment at the hands of the Iranian government has only worsened.