- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2013

An appeals court in Iran has reaffirmed the conviction and eight-year sentence of an American Christian pastor, his wife and supporters said Monday.

The decision to reject the Rev. Saeed Abedini’s appeal came Sunday from a two-judge panel of the Tehran Court of Appeals, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which defends human rights and religious freedom. The center represents Mr. Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh.

The judges — including one who has been sanctioned by the European Union for the long prison terms and death sentences he has handed down on dissidents — refused to provide Mr. Abedini’s lawyers with a copy of the ruling, the center said in a statement.

In January, Mr. Abedini, a 33-year-old Muslim convert to Christianity, was convicted after a lower court found his “Christian faith and activities [were] tantamount to a national security threat,” according to the center, which has said he has been tortured in prison.

Mrs. Abedini invoked the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. as she called on President Obama to help her husband, an Iranian-born naturalized U.S. citizen.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic speech defending freedom by Dr. Martin Luther King — a brave American who gave his life to fight for the freedom that is so fundamental to our way of life — I am extremely disappointed that President Obama has chosen to remain silent on this critical human and religious rights case of an American imprisoned in Iran,” she said.

“I am disappointed that as a country that was founded on religious freedom, our government has been awkwardly silent as an American citizen is wasting away in an Iranian prison because he chose to practice his God-given right to choose his religion,” she added.

Mr. Abedini is serving his sentence in the notorious Evin Prison. He is “facing daily threats and abuse because he refuses to deny his Christian faith,” the center said.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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