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January 25, 2013 1:29 am

Trial of Iranian-American Pastor Begins, Family Threatened

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Imprisoned Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini. Photo: ACLJ.

The trial of a 32-year-old Iranian-American pastor who is being held at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison because of his Christian faith reportedly begun this week as his family’s attempts to gain his bail have been denied, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

The Reverend Saeed Abedini, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Christian convert, was arrested in September while visiting his family in Iran. Abedini is facing one of Iran’s most notorious “hanging judges” on charges of “compromising national security.”

Abedini is one of the leaders of the underground church movement in Iran. Made up of Christian converts, the movement claims to operate more than 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities, with more than 2,000 members. There have been mixed reports surrounding Abedini’s trial, which began on Jan. 21, and his family’s attempts to gain bail.

According to ACLJ, it is unclear if the trial is continuing. Abedini and his attorney have been barred from the proceedings following the first day of hearings. Abedini’s family also attempted to present bail, but they were turned away and threatened by a court administrator.

Reports from earlier in the week by the Iranian media that were picked up by the Associated Press suggested that Abedini would be freed on bail.  Abedini’s wife Naghmeh, however, said those reports were a “lie” and park of a “game to silence the international media,” according to Fox News.

The ACLJ has working with Abedini’s family and supporters. It has created a petition urging the U.S. State Department to secure his release.

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