Iranian court rejects American pastor's appeal

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - An Iranian court has rejected an appeal by an American pastor to reduce his eight-year prison sentence, a human-rights group representing his family in the U.S. said Monday.

The decision by a two-judge panel on the Tehran Court of Appeals came Sunday, but the panel refused to provide Saeed Abedini's lawyer with a copy of the ruling, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Abedini is of Iranian origin and has lived in Boise with his family since 2006. He has been jailed in Iran since September on charges that he attempted to undermine state security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes.

He was tried and sentenced in January.

Saeed has rejected the charges against him. He was in Iran doing humanitarian work when he was arrested.

The Iranian court's decision was announced by the American Center for Law and Justice, which focuses on constitutional and human-rights law around the world. The center is representing the pastor's wife and two children, who still reside in Boise.

The family will continue to fight for her husband's release, Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, said in a statement released by the center.

"In the coming days, our family will be consulting with legal counsel in Iran to determine the next course of action," the statement said. "The family could appeal the case to the Supreme Court in Tehran or plead for the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to intervene and pardon Pastor Saeed. From past cases, we know that the decision to release my husband lies solely at the mercy of the Supreme Leader."

She also criticized the U.S. government and President Barack Obama, who she said has been silent about her husband's plight.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the human-rights group, said he is concerned about Saeed Abedini's safety in prison, and he hopes to bring more pressure on Iran to release the pastor.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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