American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has remained in an Iranian prison for the past three years because of his Christian faith, has been threatened with additional charges and more time in prison, his wife has revealed.
After a family visit at the Rajaei Shahr prison in Iran, Naghmeh Abedini was reportedly informed that her husband could face added time for possible new charges in addition to the eight-year sentence he is currently serving.
"Yesterday (Tuesday) in Iran, Iranian intelligence officers summoned Pastor Saeed for an intense round of interrogation," reads a report from the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing the Abedini family.
"Saeed reported to his family that the interrogators were abusive both verbally and physically. During the course of interrogation, the officers repeatedly used a taser gun on Saeed. This new assault is concerning as Saeed is still being denied needed medical care for injuries sustained as a result of beatings in the past," the report continued.
"The interrogators threatened that Saeed will face new criminal charges. They claimed Saeed has connections with anti-government groups and has made statements and taken actions against the government of Iran. Saeed denied all of these allegations, and once again asserted that he is apolitical and that he has never threatened the security of, made any statements against, or taken any action against the government of Iran."
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Pastor Saeed was first arrested in 2009 for allegedly "threatening the security of the state." However, supporters have said his arrest was due to his conversion to and practicing of Christianity, as he was working as an organizer in Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts who are denied the right to worship freely in public churches at the time of his arrest.
Although he was initially released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran, Pastor Saeed, who has two young children with his wife, was imprisoned again after returning to Iran in 2012 to help build a state-run, secular orphanage. He remains in a highly dangerous situation due to the frequent executions, inmate violence and beatings that take place in Iranian prisons.
In a statement shared by the ACLJ, Naghmeh said her husband's suffering has been incredibly difficult for the whole family.
"When will this nightmare end? Saeed is not a criminal. Being a Christian and motivated by Christian values to help the poorest and most needy children in Iran should be seen as good for the Iranian society. Hearing that yet again the hardliners in Iran are trying to fabricate evidence against my husband and that he was abused and tasered is almost too much to bear," she said.
Last week, Naghmeh met with 100 Parliamentarians from nearly 50 countries, asking them to sign a letter calling for her husband's release.
"We are alarmed by ongoing reports of violations of this fundamental freedom for religious minorities, including Christians and the Bahá'ís. We respectfully ask you to ensure that all individuals in Iran, be they Muslim, Christian, Bahá'í, Atheist, Zoroastrian, Jew or from another faith, can fully enjoy freedom of religion or belief without fear of violence or discrimination," reads the letter.
"We are particularly concerned about Saeed, who has been jailed for nearly three years. We understand he has been held in intolerable conditions for merely peacefully exercising his faith in private homes. We specifically request the release of Mr. Abedini, as well as other Christians," the letter continues.
This week, the 70th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations will convene in New York City, and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is expected to attend. In continuing her remarks to the ACLJ, Naghmeh asked for continued prayers as she seeks her husband's release.
"It is time for governments all over the world shift their focus to the injustices of the Iranian government and call on the government of Iran to free my husband. It is time for businesses seeking to do business in Iran to look beyond their bottom dollar and see the instability of a government known to imprison innocent men and women who have exercised their fundamental freedoms," she said.
"Whether we operate in the field of business, government, or simply are members of human society, we must expect and demand more of our leaders. I pray that as President Rouhani plans his travel to the United States next week, he will hear relentless voices crying out for Saeed's freedom," she added.