Iran sentences American to 8 years

| Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 9:28 p.m.

BOISE — An American pastor who has been jailed in Iran since September has been sentenced to eight years in prison, the U.S. State Department said on Sunday.

Spokesman Darby Holladay said the department is calling on Iran to respect Saeed Abedini's human rights and release him.

This month, Iran's semi-official news agency, ISNA, quoted Abedini's attorney, Nasser Sarbazi, as saying his client stood trial in the Revolutionary Court on charges of attempting to undermine state security by establishing a network of Christian churches in private homes.

The pastor, who is of Iranian origin but lives in Boise, has rejected the charges.

“Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day (Jan. 21) to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of (the) trial,” Holladay said.

The Iranian court had indicated that Abedini would be allowed to leave Iran after posting bail.

“The promise of his release was a lie,” said the pastor's wife, Naghmeh. “I am devastated for my husband and my family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil.”

Holladay said the State Department is in close contact with Abedini's family and actively engaged in the case: “We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion.”

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