TEHRAN, Iran – Saeed Abedini, held in a brutal Iranian prison because of his faith, has been transferred from the murderer ward to the political prisoner ward, something a key supporter called “an improvement, but not a victory.”
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said Jan. 22 the Iranian-American pastor remains in the deadliest prison in Iran, Rajai Shahr Prison, facing deteriorating medical conditions.
Still, Sekulow called the move the first positive step since Abedini’s transfer from Evin Prison last November.
Saeed Abedini with his wife and children.
“For the first time in six weeks, Pastor Saeed’s Iranian family was able to visit with Pastor Saeed today in his new prison ward,” Sekulow wrote in an update to supporters.
“No reason was given for the move and his family reports that this new ward, still within the dangerous walls of Rajai Shahr, represents a slight improvement in his treatment. Pastor Saeed is now receiving better meals,” Sekulow wrote.
Abedini still is throwing up regularly and coping with severe abdominal pain, according to his family, but he was allowed finally to be examined by a prison doctor. The physician, who reportedly was “very concerned about his internal injuries,” recommended surgery.
In conjunction with his transfer to the political ward, the pastor was given pain medication for the injuries he endured from beatings at Evin Prison, but he still has not received the medicine prescribed earlier for his condition. Sekulow said Abedini’s family in Iran has formally petitioned the Iranian government to allow him to receive the necessary surgery.
Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor’s wife, who lives in Idaho with the couple’s two young children, said she received a small bit of comfort in knowing her husband had been transferred out of the murderer ward, “but my heart aches to know the pain he continually suffers and that his injuries necessitate surgery.”
“As a family, it is difficult to be so far away and unable to comfort him in his pain,” Abedini said through the ACLJ. “Though we are encouraged by the transfer to the new ward, such a small step is far from an unconditional release where Saeed is reunited with our family. While this development is welcomed, we desperately await his return home.”
Sekulow warned that while the political prisoner ward should be safer for Abedini than the murderer ward, authorities have placed two violent criminals in the political ward who “consistently threaten any semblance of peace.”
Also, Sekulow learned that the prison closed recreational facilities and the library that had been available to political prisoners.
The ACLJ, which represents Naghmeh Abedini and has persisted in efforts to free her husband for well over a year, continues to work with world leaders and urge the U.S. government to make releasing Abedini a priority.
More than 67,000 people have signed a petition asking Congress to impose tighter sanctions on Iran until Abedini is released. The petition can be found at beheardproject.com/saeed.
Naghmeh Abedini is scheduled as a keynote speaker for the sixth annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy Feb. 25, ahead of the annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. She continues to speak in various venues on behalf of the persecuted church and her husband in particular.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)