Legal experts talk about Boise pastor sentenced to 8 years in brutal Iranian prison
Jennifer Auh reports on the Boise Pastor sentenced in Iran to eight years in prison. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
One of the worst fears has come true for a Boise pastor imprisoned in Iran for his religious beliefs. On Sunday, much sooner than expected, the Iranian government sentenced Saeed Abedini to nearly a decade in prison.
Legal experts told us Abedini's lawyer received no formal notice of the sentencing. The judge unexpectedly sentenced him to eight years behind bars to one of the most brutal prisons in Iran, called the Evin Prison.
Abedini is now convicted for threatening the national security of Iran, by spreading Christianity through the underground house church movement. Legal experts said Abedini’s lawyer in Iran was very shocked, because he believed he had a good case.
Legal experts said the evidence of Abedini's activities of spreading Christianity, stemmed from 2000 to 2005, when the former Iranian president was in charge. Back then, house churches were not perceived as a threat to the Iran’s Muslim government.
Now, there are questions of whether Abedini could survive eight years in the ruthless prison. "Beatings are very common, but nurse and doctors don't want to touch him,” said Tiffany Barrans, American Center of Law and Justice International Legal Director, “They say as a Christian, he is unclean, so obviously with the severity because of the circumstances inside the prison, eight years is extreme."
After hearing the news, Abedini's church members at Calvary Chapel in Boise, held a special prayer moment, during their Sunday service.
"Just for protection over his heart and mind, where God has him,” said Lauren Phillips, Calvary Chapel Missions Coordinator, “God will bring him home."
Phillips said she’s infuriated that a U.S. Citizen can be held in Iran for being a Christian.
Abedini's wife Naghmeh told her lawyers that her husband’s sentence came just one day, after the Iranian government told her family they planned on releasing him soon.
"[Naghmeh] She said you know, you don't want to trust Iranian regime, but they instill this little bit of hope that they're going to release him. It plays with your emotions, almost to the point of psychological torture," said Barrans.
Naghmeh has made several media appearances and tried to get her husband’s call for help, heard throughout the world.
She sent us this statement: "With today's development, I am devastated for my husband and my family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil."
Abedini's lawyer will have 20 days to file an appeal, but according to legal experts, this is just a formality and the conviction will most likely not be overturned.
The U.S. State Department Spokesperson is now calling on Iran to respect Abedini's human rights and is asking Iran to release him.
Spokesman Darby Holladay said the state department is in close contact with Abedini's family and is actively engaged in the case. However, time will tell exactly what actions the U.S. government take to bring Abedini back home.