- (Photo: http://aclj.org)
The United Nations Human Rights Council has been called to intervene in the case of American pastor, Saeed Abedini, who remains imprisoned in Tehran, Iran, after he was sentenced to eight years in prison following what has been widely labeled, an unjust trial.
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), an affiliate of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), filed a statement on Monday in Strasbourg, France, asking the U.N. Council to call for the release of the pastor, much like the U.S. State Department has done.
"Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian with dual United States–Iranian nationality, is currently imprisoned at Evin Prison in Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, because he encouraged peaceful assemblies of Christians in private homes," the ECLJ reminded the U.N. in the written statement.
Pastor Abedini has been held in Tehran since September 2012, when he was arrested on one of his trips from America to Iran to work in a children's orphanage. Abedini, who converted to Christianity in 2000, was accused by the Iranian court of endangering national security by aiding underground Christian churches, and was sentenced to eight years in prison by a notorious "hanging judge."
The ACLJ, who are representing the pastor's wife, Naghmeh, and their two children back in the U.S., have been at the forefront of campaigning for Abedini, leading a petition that brought news of the pastor's plight to the U.S. State Department, and which led to new Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the pastor's release.
"As a Member State of the UN, the Islamic Republic of Iran is obligated to adhere to norms set forth in the UN Charter, such as those requiring members '[t]o achieve international cooperation . . . in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and . . . fundamental freedoms . . . without distinction as to [inter alia] religion,'" the ECLJ further noted in its statement to the U.N.
"Filing this written submission is a vital first step in our formal U.N. efforts to free Saeed," Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, who also serves as Senior Counsel of the ECLJ, said in a press release. "Next, we'll attempt to engage each of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council, in hopes that one or more of these states will raise Pastor Saeed's case in oral comments at the Council's next plenary session."
Sekulow added that the case was reaching a "critical stage."
Pastor Abedini's supporters are hoping that the latest push for his release will keep the spotlight on his case. The pastor has shared fears that his plight in prison might soon be forgotten, and has said that he is being beaten and prevented from speaking with his family.
"When I heard this from my husband, I cried. It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten," Naghmeh Abedini shared about her last conversation with her husband earlier in February.