Iranian officials dangled needed medical treatment in front of an American pastor imprisoned for his faith then put him in shackles and denied treatment,
Subsequently, the Iranians removed the shackles but still denied him treatment for internal injuries he suffered during beatings in prison, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.
The organization has been representing Pastor Saeed Abedini since he was imprisoned in Iran late in 2012 for his Christian ministry in the country, which includes a housing project for children.
ACLJ repeatedly has raised the issue of Abedini’s imprisonment with U.S. officials, and White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadaette Meehan confirmed that he remains a subject of concern.
At one point, she said the administration continues “to have serious concerns about fate of Saeed Abedini.”
“Mr. Abedini has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs,” she said. “President Obama raised Mr. Abedini’s case in his September 27 phone call with [Iranian] President Rouhani, and we continue to urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Abedini so that he may be reunited with his family as soon as possible. We call again on Iranian authorities to permit a visit by officials of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to determine the well-being of Mr. Abedini.”
WND reported in December that the White House’s lack of involvement in Abedini’s case may be because he is a Christian pastor.
A growing number of U.S. analysts, human-rights activists and even a congressman, angered by the nuclear deal reached with Iran without demanding the release of Abedini, now believe Obama neglected the prisoner because he’s a Christian.
One of those experts is William Murray, president of the Religious Freedom Coalition. He told WND the Obama administration doesn’t see religion the same way a Christian would.
“He sees religion as a ‘tradition,’ as in the way Joe Biden says he’s from a Catholic tradition,” Murray said. “Obama, like most secularists, cannot understand religion affecting the lives of those that believe outside the setting of a church, hence his reference to freedom of worship that he confuses with freedom of religion.”
ACLJ said Abedini was moved from Rajai Shahr Prison, where he has been held, to a hospital two weeks ago, where he was promised medical treatment.
However, he then was banned from seeing family members, put in shackles and ordered to return to prison.
Just as quickly, however, the orders were reversed, and the pastor’s shackles were removed, although he still has not been treated, ACLJ said.
“The prison official told [an Abedini family member] the whole ordeal – the shackles, the refused medical treatment, and the order to return to prison – was a ‘mistake,’” ACLJ said.
“The voices and prayers of the worldwide community truly have made and continue to make a difference,” the organization said. “We will continue to put pressure on Iran to provide the vital medical treatment that Pastor Saeed so desperately needs.
“It’s extremely disturbing that the Iranian government continues to play games with the life of this U.S. citizen – who has been imprisoned in Iran for a year and a half now simply because of his Christian faith. We are continuing to fight for Pastor Saeed’s freedom. Right now a legal team from both our U.S. and international offices is meeting with world leaders at the United Nations office in Geneva on his behalf.”
ACLJ noted that the move to the hospital coincided “with the arrival of the high representative of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, in Iran.”
The legal team said the European Union “has been faithfully raising Pastor Saeed’s case for some time, and this move would allow Iranian officials to report that he was receiving medical treatment if his case was brought up during the EU’s visit to Iran.”
The case has played a role in some of the highest level international exchanges, including when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country’s relationship with the world is “based on Iranian nation’s interests.” In the Geneva agreement, he said, the “world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.”
He was referring to a deal under which the U.S. released billions of dollars in assets to Iran in exchange for a delay in its nuclear development program.
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said at the time the message is clear and unambiguous.
“To use a word like that, surrender, is in line with what we’ve said about this administration and that they betrayed Saeed Abedini, who is an American citizen wrongfully imprisoned in Iran. And the U. S. government and this administration were unwilling to make his release a precondition for negotiations,” he said.
“The release isn’t a condition for implementation of this deal, which benefits Iran economically. His release isn’t even a condition for any further negotiations with Iran. The U. S. has its best chance to make some sort of deal with Iran, and we have our best relations with Iran since the 1979 revolution, and Pastor Abedini’s release isn’t even on the table,” Sekulow said.
WND reported in December that Abedini’s wife, Nagmeh Abedini, testified before a House subcommittee hearing on human rights. The hearing was chaired by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, who observed the injustice of the pastor’s jail time.
“Pastor Abedini is an American citizen, but he was told he could re-enter Iran to carry on his relief work. The Iranian government offered him safe entry. He accepted the Iranian government’s offer for safe passage, but the Iranian government hasn’t kept its promise,” Smith said.
Smith said “the fact that they moved him to the more dangerous prison shows that they knew he would be an important factor in the negotiations.”
“He’s an American citizen, and he remains in an absolute hell-hole in Iran.”