U.N. Council Slams Iran over Imprisonment of Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini

Sep 18, 2014 01:16 PM EDT

Pastor Saeed Abedini
Pastor Saeed Abedini pictured with his wife and two children (ACLJ)

A UN Human Rights Council recently denounced Iran's imprisonment of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is currently enduring the second year of a prison sentence in the Islamic republic for practicing his Christian faith.

Fox News reports that the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a six-page document detailing Abedini's plight and called for his release, arguing that he has "has been deprived of his liberty for peacefully exercising the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and association."

The pastor's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, who lives in Boise, Idaho with her two children has pleaded with lawmakers and the White House to force Iran to release her husband.

"There are times where your cause feels forgotten -- but today is not one of those days," she told Fox News.

"From the depths of my heart, I urge the member countries of the UN to act on the recommendations of this report. As these countries sit face-to-face with Iran during the upcoming UN General Assembly, I plead with them to ask for my husband's release. It is time for our family to be re-united. My children need their father and I need my husband."

Abedini, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison, was first arrested in 2009 while working as a Christian leader and community organizer in Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts who are denied the right to worship freely in public churches.

Although Abedini was released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran, he was imprisoned after returning to Iran in 2012 to help build a state-run, secular orphanage.

Prison conditions are brutal according to Abedini's attorneys, as he has suffered long stints in solitary confinement, and beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates. He was also denied medical attention for his injuries.

"This formal opinion recognizes the arbitrary nature of Pastor Saeed's imprisonment -- an imprisonment that the group declared violated numerous provisions of international covenants to which Iran obligated itself," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law & Justice, which represents the Abedini family.

"Iran is at a critical juncture on the world scene, and it is time that Iran take a step of good faith and release Pastor Saeed in accordance with the UN's recommendation," Sekulow said.

Western leaders have been highly criticized for not pressing for Abedini's release, along with the two other Americans, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and former CIA operative Robert Levinson, as part of the ongoing nuclear deal with the Iranian government.

"Pastor Saeed has become the face of the persecuted Christian church worldwide, one of many Christians around the world who face imprisonment, beatings and even death for their faith," said Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ executive director.

"As the world's eye turns to violence against Christians in the Middle East, we raise a united voice in urging Iran to free pastor Saeed and grant him clemency. It's time for Saeed to come home."