Wife of pastor held in Iran appears before UN Human Rights Council

(Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)American pastor Saeed Abedini faces the death penalty for charges of undermining national security in Iran because he was involved in house churches a decade ago.

Nagmeh Abedini, the wife of 33-year-old U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran, has gone before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to plead for help in securing his release.

The Iranian-American was arrested in September and is a prisoner in in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

The Iranian authorities took him into custody because they say his Christian ministry with home churches in the country endangered national security.

However, his supporters say he was doing humanitarian work.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), representing the pastor and his wife, posted Nagmeh Abedini's remarks to the U.N. on its website.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, had previously argued on behalf of Saaed Abedini in front of the council on May 30.

(Photo: savesaeed.org)Nagmeh Abedini

Baptist Press reported he said it was "incumbent on the HRC to remember that the basic right to freedom of peaceful assembly applies 'without distinction of any kind' and necessarily includes freedom of religious assembly."

The ACLJ said Nagmeh Abedini "made a passionate and heartfelt plea for her husband's life, urging the nations of the world to stand up for religious liberty and Iran to release Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen."

She spoke before the council on June 4 and stated:

"For nearly a year, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to silence my husband, Saeed Abedini, through illegal imprisonment, torture, and threats against our family.

"Why is he being held – because he exercised his rights of religious freedom, expression, and peaceful assembly. This past week and today, this Council has called on member states to recognize and uphold these fundamental freedoms. I hope that my presence here today will put a face to those who suffer when a government does not uphold its obligation to protect these freedoms.

"My husband has broken no Iranian law – he simply exercised fundamental rights that Iran has acknowledged before this body that it would uphold. Iran has kept Saeed imprisoned because he believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for forgiveness of sin and to reconcile humanity to God.

"While I do not know the outcome of my husband's case or whether he will live or die in Evin prison, I do know that the international community must do more to ensure that Iran upholds its obligations to protect all human rights for every individual, regardless of religious creed, nationality, or ethnic background.

"I call on this body to do more. Each member state here has an obligation, and I respectfully ask that you join me in this fight. Please help bring my husband home to me and our two young kids."

Sekulow said it was impossible to overstate the importance of the opportunity for Saeed's wife to present her husband's case directly to world leaders.

"They looked her directly in the eyes, heard her pleas and saw her pain. The empathy and compassion of the world could be felt as she delivered her remarks."

ACLJ said Nagmeh Abedini reflected on her remarks before the council

"On one hand, speaking to world leaders stretches me far beyond my comfort zone," she said. "But on the other hand, it gives me purpose as Saeed's wife to know I am doing everything I can for my husband."

Sekulow said a petition on the ACLJ website, savesaeed.org, has garnered more than 600,000 signatures

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