“This is an extremely dangerous development that puts Pastor Saeed’s life at grave risk,” Jay Sekulow, ACLJ’s chief counsel, stated in a Wednesday press release.
“Not only is Pastor Saeed facing threats from Iranian militants who have imprisoned him because of his Christian faith, he now faces new and perhaps even more dangerous threats from Iraqi ISIS prisoners who want to murder Pastor Saeed because of his faith.”
“We call on President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry to intervene immediately to secure Pastor Saeed’s release and to ensure that he is protected during this transfer to freedom,” Sekulow continued.
“Pastor Saeed, who is approaching his second year of imprisonment in Iran, must be returned to his family without delay.”
State Department press officer Laura Seal told CNSNews.com Thursday that “we remain concerned about the welfare of U.S.-Iranian citizen Saeed Abedini, who was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs. We reiterate our call for Iranian authorities to release him. We continue to pursue all available channels to secure his release.”
A Christian convert from Islam, Pastor Saeed ran a network of Iranian house churches before he left for America with his wife, Naghmeh, in 2005. He later became a naturalized United States citizen.
He returned to Iran several times to establish an orphanage before he was arrested in 2012 and sentenced in 2013 to eight years in jail for leading underground congregations.
Pastor Saeed was initially incarcerated in Evin Prison before being transferred to Rajai Shahr, where ISIS members are reportedly being held.
According to ACLJ, the pastor told family members “that...due to the severe overcrowding and lack of supervision of the prisoners… he has had to hide inside his cell and rely on the protection of fellow prisoners when some of these extremists have ventured into his section.”
A United Nations report in March detailed various religious freedom violations in Iran, including the imprisonment of hundreds of “religious practitioners.”
“As at 14 January 2014, at least 895 ‘prisoners of conscience’ and ‘political prisoners’ were reportedly imprisoned [in Iran].
"This number includes 379 political activists, 292 religious practitioners, 92 human rights defenders (including 50 ethnic rights activists), 71 civic activists, 37 journalists and netizens, and 24 student activists,” the U.N. report stated.
However, in a July article in the state-run Tehran Times, the secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights asserted that U.N. officials are misreading Iranian law,
“Conducting interviews and issuing statements which are politically motivated are contrary to special rapporteurs’ responsibilities,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani. “[UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed] Shaheed is not aware of the intricacies of Iran’s judicial and legal institutions and therefore his reports and remarks are unfair and biased.”
Last December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a “Draft Citizen’s Rights Charter” that “holding and attending religious rituals of the religions identified in the Constitution [Christianity, Jewish, Zoroastrian] is permitted” in the Islamic Republic of Iran.