There's been a very troubling development in the case of American pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has confirmed through Pastor Saeed's family members in Iran that he has been moved from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, an even more dangerous prison, where he faces life-threatening conditions and treatment.
A member of Pastor Saeed's family in Iran arrived at Evin Prison on Monday for a regular weekly visit and was told that Pastor Saeed had been moved to this prison outside of Tehran yesterday, about an hour and a half drive away. The family member traveled to Rajai Shahr Prison and was told Pastor Saeed is imprisoned there and is not permitted to have any visitors.
The unexplained and abrupt transfer comes as turmoil intensifies inside Iran, where anti-American sentiment was on full display Monday as hardline opponents of Iran's President Rouhani's historic outreach to the United States took to the streets to mark the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979.
In today's protests, crowds chanted "Death to America," in direct opposition to President Rouhani's promise of moderation.
The ACLJ has confirmed that Pastor Saeed is now in one of the most dangerous wards of Rajai Shahr Prison, where violent prisoners—those who are imprisoned for murder and rape—are held.
In 2005, Loes Bijnen, a Dutch diplomat from the embassy in Tehran, described Rajai Shahr Prison:
"Rajai Shahr is the place where political prisoners who are seen as a nuisance, are stowed away. Going to Karaj is a severe punishment. Once in there one stops to be a human being. One is put out of sight, even of human rights activists and the press. In Rajaï Shahr, political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists and drug addicts who don't hesitate to attack their cell mates. They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence."
The transfer to this prison is a deeply disturbing development and can only be viewed as a move that puts Pastor Saeed's life directly at risk.
President Obama called Iranian President Rhouani in September, urging him to release Pastor Saeed.
This new and extremely dangerous development requires the full attention and focus of President Obama. He must speak out now—directly and forcefully—to save Pastor Saeed's life. Pastor Saeed’s life is in grave danger.
There's wide bipartisan support for a critical resolution in the Senate calling for Pastor Saeed's release. And we continue to work to ensure passage of that measure.
But it is critical that President Obama take immediate diplomatic action to save the life of this U.S. citizen.
Send a message to President Obama today. Sign our petition to immediately intervene to save Saeed.
Time is of the essence.