By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– There is concern about a jailed Iranian-American pastor amid reports he has been mistreated and placed in solitary confinement in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons.
Pastor Saeed Abedini, a former Muslim, celebrated his 33rd birthday behind bars Tuesday, May 7, after being sentenced to eight years imprisonment in January on what his supporters claim are trumped-up charges including “actions against the national security of Iran”.
Iranian Christians said Abedini and nine other inmates were taken to solitary confinement after taking part in a peaceful courtyard protest against the alleged mistreatment of inmates in Evin Prison in the capital Tehran.
Pastor Abedini had also signed a petition which criticized the lack of medical care for prisoners and the mistreatment of their families during visits, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) a major advocacy group following the case.
The 32-year-old married father of two is reportedly suffering severe internal bleeding because of regular beatings in prison and “there are concerns his kidneys may not be functioning properly,” CSW investigators said.
FAMILY VISITS REFUSED
It was difficult to receive more information about his exact condition as family members were reportedly turned away from their weekly visit and informed that he was no longer permitted to receive any visitors.
“CSW is deeply concerned at reports of Pastor Abedini’s deteriorating health, and that he is being held in solitary despite urgently needing medical attention,” CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife.
Pastor Abedini was detained in September 2012 while in Iran on a family visit. On 27 January, he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court Branch 26 in Tehran on charges of ‘planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security.’
Although couched in political terms, the charges against Pastor Abedini are linked to his conversion from Islam to Christianity, Iranian Christians and rights activists say. Critics say Christians in Iran are increasingly facing such charges to justifying arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences.
“His case is reminiscent of that of Pastor Irani, who is also being denied adequate medical care for severe health challenges,” Thomas said.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to provide immediate medical care for Pastor Abedini and Pastor Irani, and to release them and all other prisoners who in reality are being held on account of their faith,” he added.
Church groups claim the detentions are part of a wider crackdown on the at least 100,000 evangelical Christians in the strict Islamic country. Officials have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying they only guard “Islamic values.”
Rights activists and Iranian Christians argue that the freedom to profess one’s faith is protected in the Iranian constitution as well as in various international treaties to which Iran is signatory.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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