An appeals court in Tehran has rejected an appeal by Iranian American pastor Saeed Abedini, whose eight-year prison sentence has garnered widespread international attention.
The appeals court decision "signals a new level of concern for Pastor Saeed's safety," Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said in a written statement Aug. 26.
"By keeping the 8-year prison sentence in place, Pastor Saeed now potentially faces additional beatings and abuse inside Evin Prison -- treatment that has significantly weakened him during his first year in prison," Sekulow said.
Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor's wife, said the news is devastating to her family. She and the couple's two young children reside in Idaho, where Saeed Abedini, 33, also lived before being arrested on a trip to Iran nearly a year ago.
Naghmeh Abedini said her family will be consulting with legal counsel in Iran to determine the next course of action, possibly appealing the case to the Supreme Court in Tehran or pleading for the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to intervene and pardon Pastor Saeed.
"From past cases, we know that the decision to release my husband lies solely at the mercy of the supreme leader," Naghmeh Abedini said. "It is imperative in the coming days, weeks and months that we remain vigilant" to call for her husband's release.
Sekulow said the outcome of the appeal shows Iran again "has demonstrated an utter disregard for the fundamentals of human rights," and ACLJ, which represents Abedini's wife and has worked consistently for his release, is exploring all options for increasing international pressure on Iran.
Naghmeh Abedini, in the ACLJ news release about the rejected appeal, expressed disappointment in the U.S. government, saying "our government has been awkwardly silent as an American citizen is wasting away in an Iranian prison because he chose to practice his God-given right to choose his religion."
President Obama has not spoken a word about Saeed Abedini publicly, the pastor's wife noted.
"I do hope and pray that as a nation we realize that if we do not speak out against injustice, it is only matter of time before all our children will have to face what my children are facing today," Naghmeh Abedini said. "As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"
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SOURCE: Baptist Press