13-February-2013 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Supporters of jailed Iranian pastor petition UN to act

Human rights groups in both America and Europe are asking the United Nations to put pressure on Iran for the release of a Christian pastor imprisoned for his faith.

"By bringing his story before a global audience, it's our hope that member states and other organizations will become a strong voice for Pastor Saeed - raising the visibility of this troubling case and putting additional pressure on Iran to free him," said attorney Jordan Sekulow in a Feb. 12 statement.

Sekulow serves as senior counsel for the European Centre for Law and Justice and as executive director of its affiliate, the American Center for Law and Justice.

Both groups promote constitutional and human rights and are asking the U.N. Human Rights Council to work for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen who is currently imprisoned in Iran on charges related to his Christian faith.

On Jan. 27, an Iranian judge sentenced Pastor Abedini to eight years in prison for allegedly threatening local security through his previous leadership of house churches in the country.

Born in Iran and raised as a Muslim, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010 through his marriage to an American woman.

Abedini became an evangelical pastor in 2008 and began leading house churches in Iran. However, he ended this work in 2009 due to the demands of the Iranian government and instead turned his focus to non-religious orphanages.

Despite adhering to the regime's requirements, the 32-year-old pastor was arrested in Iran last September, while on a trip to see his family and work with these orphanages.

Sekulow has received reports that the pastor has been tortured and abused both physically and psychologically in prison.

The European Centre for Law and Justice, which holds the consultative status of a non-governmental organization at the U.N., has now filed a document with the Human Rights Council delineating Iran's violations of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The document asks the council to condemn Iran's actions and call for the immediate release of Abedini. It also pushes for Iran to fulfill its obligation "to protect and respect dignity of all human beings."

Sekulow said that the law center's written submission is "a significant step forward in generating the international attention and pressure needed to secure the freedom of Pastor Saeed."

He explained that the organization aims to work with the members of the Human Rights Council in the hopes that at least one of the 47 member states will "raise Pastor Saeed's case" and present it next month in oral arguments before the council.

According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the release of another Christian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, from an Iranian prison last year can be attributed largely to international pressure on the regime.

In addition to petitioning the United Nations, the American law center is working with the United States government and the European Union to protect Abedini. It has also launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of the pastor's plight.

"There is no better case" for the Human Rights Council to pursue, Sekulow said, "than that of Pastor Saeed - a U.S. citizen - imprisoned in a nation that not only rejects religious freedom and human rights laws but exhibits a hostile disdain for international law that protects the most basic rights of people around the world."

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=7017#ixzz2KuzW4YOl

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