An Iranian-American pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran for the past several months is set to face a religious judge in Iran who has a record of sending people to the gallows. The Rev. Saeed Abedini, who grew up in Iran and was training to be a suicide bomber before becoming a Christian, resides in the United States with his American-born wife and their two children. As reported by The New American, Abedini was a leader of Iran's underground church before leaving for the United States, and while he had worked out a deal with Iranian officials that allowed him to return to the country for humanitarian purposes, he was taken into custody in September 2012, and only in recent days was he indicted on as-yet unspecified charges.
Jay Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has stepped forward to advocate for Abedini's release, told the Jerusalem Post that the American citizen and minister has been transferred to Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, and is now in the hands of Judge Pir-Abassi, who is “notorious for his harsh sentences against those who exercise their fundamental freedoms.” Sekulow said that Pir-Abassi “is often referred to as one of Iran’s 'hanging judges' for the numerous individuals he has sent to the gallows.”
In 2011 the European Union placed Pir-Abassi on a list of individuals subject to sanctions for human rights violations. In April of that year the Official Journal of the European Union noted that, following Iran's 2009 elections, Pir-Abassi presided over several trials in which he handed down lengthy prison terms, as well as several death sentences, to individuals identified by the EU as Iranian human rights activists.
In its 2012 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also recommended that the U.S. government apply similar sanctions to Pir-Abassi and his family, noting that he is “responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Sekulow said that while the State Department is well aware of Pir-Abassi's human rights record, it has not acted on the recommendations, nor has it moved to help Pastor Abedini. “It is an absolute travesty that the U.S. government would stand by idly while an American citizen, detained for his exercise of a fundamental human right, deteriorates in an Iranian prison,” said Sekulow.
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