-- Catholic News Agency
Imprisoned Iranian Pastor Reportedly Weak From Torture
WASHINGTON D.C., April 18 (CNA) .- Human rights advocates are warning that the health of an American citizen imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith is rapidly deteriorating due to physical and psychological abuse.
For months, said Jordan Sekulow, executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice, Pastor Saeed Abedini "has been suffering from internal bleeding" cause by "injuries received from the beatings in prison."
"In what could only be viewed as a cruel act of psychological abuse, prison officials took Pastor Saeed to a hospital last week - only to be turned away - and brought back to Evin prison without receiving medical treatment for his internal bleeding," Sekulow said in an April 15 blog post.
A native of Iran, Abedini was raised as a Muslim but converted to Christianity in 2000. He became an American citizen in 2010 after marrying an American woman.
The pastor worked with house churches in Iran until 2009, when he was ordered by the government to stop his work. He then turned his focus to non-religious orphanages. However, he was arrested in late 2012 under charges of threatening national security for his previous work with the churches, despite the fact that these churches are technically legal in Iran.
He was given an eight-year sentence and is being held in Evin prison, an institution known for its particularly harsh treatment of prisoners.
The American Center for Law and Justice is representing Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, who lives in the United States with the couple's two children.
The organization has been working to raise awareness of Abedini's plight, calling on U.S. officials to work for his freedom an orchestrating an effort for people to send letters showing their support for the pastor. More than 30,000 people have participated in the initiative.
According to Sekulow, "the beatings and physical abuse are intensifying," and Abedini's family has "reported that his physical condition is worsening," leading to frequent fainting spells made worse by a lack of treatment.
"Iranian officials are telling Pastor Saeed it could be an additional two months before he will receive medical treatment," he continued. "Such a delay is inhumane and a gross violation of Iran's international obligations."
In addition, Sekulow said that Abedini is suffering psychological torture from his prison mates. The pastor reported that his cellmates recently threatened to suffocate him "in his sleep, making his death look like an accident."
"The daily threat that his life could be taken by his internal injuries or by the hands of cellmates, weighs heavily on Pastor Saeed," Sekulow explained.
"I cannot express in words how concerned I am about Saeed's physical and mental health," said Abedini's wife, adding that the "Iranian government should know that we are watching and aware of what they are doing to Saeed inside Evin prison."
She asked Americans to "speak louder until Saeed is home safely on U.S. soil."
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