Jailed American pastor denied medical care after beatings

by Angela Lu Fulton
Posted 4/16/13, 05:38 pm

Iranian officials have denied medical treatment for Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini as he suffers from internal bleeding from beatings by prison guards, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). 

Abedini’s family members, who visited him at the prison yesterday, said he was taken to the hospital last week. When the doctor did not show up, he was sent back to prison. Later that day, interrogators beat him unconscious, adding to his injuries. His health has deteriorated in Evin prison, and he experiences frequent fainting, constant abdominal pain, and blood in his stool, family members say.

“We know the authorities said it’ll be two months before he’s treated, but we believe that with the severity of his injuries, he may not survive the two months,” said Tiffany Barrans, ACLJ’s international legal director. ACLJ is representing Abedini’s family in the United States and helping coordinate efforts to gain his release.

Abedini has been in prison since September for his role in leading the house churches in Iran. He became a U.S. citizen after marrying an Iranian-American in 2004, and was arrested when he went back to Iran to work on a non-sectarian orphanage.

Beyond the medical issues, Abedini also told family members some men have moved into his cell who seem to know a lot about him and his wife, possibly because they are connected to the intelligence police. They have threatened to kill him in the middle of the night and make it look like an accident. Barrans said they may have been planted to cause more psychological and physical torture. 

While international pressure has ramped up with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling for his release, Iran has not eased its stance on Abedini. But with the increased media attention on his imprisonment, news of the American pastor has spread to Iranians on the street through newspapers and magazines independent of government control. Barrans hopes that as more Iranians hear about the situation, the government will realize it is not worth creating instability, especially with the upcoming elections in June. 

Abedini turns 33 on May 7, and the ACLJ has organized a birthday message campaign, asking supporters to write notes of encouragement. ACLJ plans to send all the messages to Evin prison in hopes of showing the government how many people support Abedini and are watching what happens to him. So far, ACLJ has collected more than 20,000 messages.

News of Abedini’s latest troubles hit his wife Naghmeh the hardest. She lives in Idaho with their two young children and is unable to visit or call him. While she has continued to lobby the international community about his case and hopes others will see the testimony of their lives, she said these past few days have been extremely difficult.

“She shared with me this morning she fears people don’t recognize the family on the other end of the story—that it’s personal,” Barrans said. “They live this out every day; for her and her kids hearing about your father and dad dying is excruciating.”

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine and a part-time editor for WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Angela resides in Taipei, Taiwan. Follow her on Twitter @angela818.

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