Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement on 22 May in Berlin following his meeting with Naghmeh Panahi-Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a convert to Christianity imprisoned in Iran since 2012:
Mrs Abedini’s reports on the poor state of health of her husband Pastor Saeed Abedini, sentenced to eight years in prison, fill me with great concern. He continues to be refused urgently needed medical treatment.
I call upon Iran to quash Pastor Abedini’s sentence – and the sentences of all those imprisoned merely on account of their religious belief – without delay. Until he is released, I appeal to all those responsible in Iran to grant him urgently needed medical treatments, including outside the prison.
Dealing with prisoners humanely and respectfully is a humanitarian imperative.
Freedom of religion is subject to restrictions in Iran. While the “religious minorities” (Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians) cited in Article 13 of the Iranian Government Constitution are allowed to practice their faiths with a degree of freedom, they are forbidden from engaging in any form of missionary activity, which can be construed as “mohareb” (waging war against God), punishable with the death penalty. Christian converts also face repression as they risk prosecution for apostasy with sentences that go as far as the death penalty.
Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has both Iranian and US citizenship, converted to Christianity from Islam in 2000 and lived in the USA from 2006. During a visit to Iran, Abedini was arrested by Iranian security authorities on 26 September 2012 and sentenced to eight years in prison on 27 January 2013 for endangering national security. Accusations levelled against him centred primarily on his earlier work to set up house churches. Pastor Abedini has been married to Naghmeh Panahi-Abedini since 2004 and has two children.