Calling it a "mockery of justice," lawyers representing the family of an American pastor jailed in an Iranian prison won't let his conviction pass without challenge.
Tiffany Barrans is the International Legal Director for the American Center for Law and Justice. She says, "Under Iranian law, Pastor Saeed and his attorney in Iran have 20 days from the sentencing to appeal. We have heard from him and the lawyer in Iran that that is something they do plan to do, although we recognize that the fruitfulness of those appeals are rarely successful."
Pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced to 8 years Sunday on charges that included "disrupting national security."
Barrans explains, "In 2000 to 2005, it was not unlawful for Pastor Saeed to have a house church in Iran. In fact, it's technically not unlawful today. But because he had this church from 2000 to 2005, the regime says NOW that those actions were a threat to the national security of Iran."
Abedini, a Christian pastor who became an American citizen in 2010, was arrested in September last year for his involvement in an underground house church movement. However, he plainly stated his visit in Iran was to help establish an orphanage.
On January 25, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the State Department is "actively engaged in the case" and called for his release. The extra pressure can only serve to help, notes Barrans. "Because we lack diplomatic ties with Iran, we need other governments--governments that are trade partners, governments that are closely tied, even with religious affiliation to Iran--to step up to Iran and say that they need to release Pastor Saeed and all prisoners of conscience inside Iran."
Barrans goes on to say that international pressure, similar to that which built up surrounding Youcef Nadarkhani's case, is one avenue they'll pursue for recourse in Abedini's case. "We do believe that this is something that is bigger than the judiciary, but we are hopeful that through international attention, through international pressure, and gaining some support from governments who have economic ties and diplomatic ties with Iran, we will be able to see this conviction dropped."
The Iranian government has long been adversarial to Christians, according to the reports from religious rights groups like Open Doors and the Voice of the Martyrs. Barrans explains, "They see that Christianity is a threat because it's growing in Iran. Iran is a theocracy of Islam so, as the youth start to turn to Christ, they find that they have less control over their people."
Pray for a change of heart, for an overturning of the conviction. Pray that Pastor Abedini will maintain his faith and hope in Christ while in the notorious Evin Prison. Mobilizing advocates is another way to let the Iranian government know this case has not been forgotten.
There's a petition circulating from the ACLJ, calling for Abedini's release, among other things. More than raising the awareness, it's calling governments to account. Barrans concludes,"It's so important for us to make sure this concept of religious freedom and how it affects the security of every country around the world, when it is violated, is taken to the world leaders so that they start to put pressure on Iran. So that really is our focus right now, in making sure that we have other government support."
SOURCE: Mission Network News