The silent treatment

"The silent treatment" Continued...

Issue: "Taking a scalpel to the First Amendment," Feb. 9, 2013

“In this instance he didn’t break any law, he was just exercising his religious liberty,” Barrans said. Barrans knew that the United States could pressure Iran without formal relations as they had done with imprisoned American hikers a few years ago. But nothing happened.

Less than a week before the trial, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom labeled the charges against Abedini “bogus” and asserted they were used “to suppress religious belief and activity of which the Iranian government does not approve.” 

Through brief phone calls with Abedini, Naghmeh learned that he had been beaten by interrogators and cellmates who say they are members of al-Qaeda. Guards promised to let him see his family through Skype on Christmas, “but it was a game to play on his emotions,” Naghmeh said. “They took away the hope and then threaten him with death.”

Iranian officials offered bail twice, first for 150 million Iranian rial (about $12,000), then for 500 million (about $41,000). Both times the family prepared bail documents, but the government refused to accept them.

A week before the trial, officials finally let Abedini meet with his attorney and told him the charges. During the trial, the court presented photos, videos, and documents of Abedini’s work in the house-church movement since his conversion in 2000. His lawyer, a Muslim who believes in the human-rights merits of the case, argued that Abedini’s activities were motivated by his faith rather than a political agenda. 

Naghmeh told me she is shocked that her husband is facing serious charges now, rather than when he was actively leading the church movement. She said it represents an increasing hostility toward Christians in Iran. In the past two years, Iranian officials have arrested at least 300 Christians.

“Right now it’s a very uncertain time not knowing what the future holds with the trial,” Naghmeh said. “It’s been very hard waiting, but it’s been a good time of trusting God through this.”

Repeated news reports in January said Abedini was being released by Iranian authorities. Naghmeh remained skeptical: “This is all a lie by the Iranian media. This has been a repeated promise by the Iranian regime since Saeed was first thrown in prison on Sept. 26, 2012.” 

Angela Lu
Angela Lu

Angela is a reporter for WORLD Magazine who lives and works in Taiwan. She enjoys cooking, reading, and storytelling. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.


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