Iranian pastor sentenced to eight years

08 February 2013

AN IRANIAN Christian pastor, Saeed Abedinigalangashi, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for "actions against the security of Iran".

Mr Abedinigalangashi, who is also known as Mr Abedini, was arrested in September 2012, and his case was heard at the Revolutionary Court Branch 26 in Tehran on 21 January. Mr Abedini, who has dual United States/Iranian nationality, is a former Muslim convert to Christianity.

Mr Abedini's lawyer, Naser Sarbazi, told Mohabat, the Iranian Christian news agency: "My client was sentenced to eight years in prison for planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security." Mr Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, said that her husband had instructed his lawyer to appeal against the verdict.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that Mr Abedini's case was heard by "a notoriously harsh judge. . . There was no public access to the courtroom, and Mr Abedini had limited access to his legal representative."

Its director of advocacy, Andrew Johnston, said: "CSW is deeply concerned by the lack of due process in Mr Abedini's case. There should be no doubt that while the charges against Mr Abedini are couched in political terms, in reality these charges stem from his conversion and from exercising the freedom to worship in communion with others.

"We urge the Iranian authorities to uphold the rule of law, review the sentence handed down to Mr Abedini, and respect the principle of freedom of religion and belief."

The Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who faced the death penalty for refusing to recant his Christian faith (News, 7 October 2011), was released in September (News, 14 September), after his case drew international attention. Mr Nadarkhani was taken back into custody on Christmas Day, but released earlier this month.

The Labour MP Stephen Timms, who is a Christian, wrote on a political website, Left Foot Forward, last month about a recent visit to Turkey. Persecution against Christians in Iran, Mr Timms wrote, "has been stepped up recently. . . The [Iranian] regime has retaliated against the growth of Christianity with a concerted propaganda campaign.

"It is strictly forbidden for Christians to share their faith with Muslims. Churches that reach out to non-Christians have had leaders executed, and members imprisoned and tortured. Congregations live under constant threat of arrest and violent interrogation."

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