By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON D.C. (ANS) -- American Pastor Saeed Abedini, serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran because of his Christian faith, is directly appealing to Iran's newly elected President Hassan Rouhani for justice and freedom.
Saeed Abedini and his two children
According to a news release made available to the ASSIST News Service, in a letter written to the Iranian president, Abedini called on the new president to follow through on his pledge of moderation and pleads for compassion and justice so he can return to his wife and children in the United States.
Abedini's letter comes as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents his wife and children in the U.S. and has been working to secure his freedom, launches a global letter-writing campaign urging President Rouhani to release Abedini.
To support Abedini, the ACLJ is asking for letters to be written directly to the Iranian president. Those interested can add their names to a petition containing the names of more than 620,000 people who have signed on already demanding Abedini's release.
"This is a critical time for this U.S. citizen who has been illegally imprisoned in one of Iran's most dangerous prisons for nearly one year now," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, speaking in the news release.
He added, "With Pastor Saeed's direct appeal to the Iranian president and our global letter-writing campaign to urge him to release Pastor Saeed, the new Iranian president can send an important message to the world - that his promise of moderation can be fulfilled by releasing Pastor Saeed from prison. This American pastor has done nothing wrong - imprisoned only because of his Christian faith. We call on Iran to release him so he can return to his family."
The ACLJ said the latest developments come as Abedini's captivity approaches one year with Sept. 26th marking the anniversary of being taken into custody by Iranian authorities.
In his letter to President Rouhani, Abedini provides details about his work in Iran and the fact he was completing work on an orphanage when he was taken into custody. He writes about the abuse and internal bleeding he has suffered as a result of his year-long imprisonment.
He also calls on the president to follow through on his promise of moderation and urges the Iranian leader to exhibit compassion and justice so he can return to his family in the United States.
"My wife and children as well as over a billion Christians in the world seek God's justice and then your consideration of this matter," Abedini wrote.
He added, "Please take immediate action in this regard and do not let me and a lot of people in my ward become the victims of the fire that extremists have made, those who have turned Iran into a vortex of crisis. Considering the fact that I came to Iran to serve the orphans, please do not let them make my children orphans and my wife without a guardian."
Abedini's wife Naghmeh said in the release, "Over the last weekend my family celebrated my daughter's seventh birthday, the second birthday in a row my precious Rebekkah celebrated without her father. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said she just wanted her daddy home. The reality of his absence is inescapable."
She added, "In a week from now, the president of Iran will be on U.S. soil. And I have to wonder whether my government will use this opportunity to appeal directly to President Rouhani for the release of my husband. I hope President Obama will break his deafening silence and speak out for my husband. But I also ask that everyone join me in appealing directly to President Rouhani by writing letters urging him to release Saeed."
The news release said Abedini also told in his letter of the physical abuse he suffered during the four months he spent in solitary confinement.
He wrote, "During this extremely difficult, exhausting and tormenting period that cannot be described here, I was in agony from the severity of stomach bleeding and other internal diseases as a result of terrible condition in the detention . . ."
Last month an Iranian court rejected Abedini's appeal, leaving his eight year prison sentence in place.
Abedini was convicted of threatening the security of Iran because he chose to gather with other Christian believers.
On Jan. 27 2013, Judge Pir Abassi, a judge sanctioned by the European Union for his human rights abuses, found Abedini's Christian faith and activities tantamount to national security threat.
On Sept. 26, the one year anniversary of Abedini's captivity, there will be prayer vigils in this country and around the world - a united effort to call attention to Abedini's plight and an opportunity to advocate for his release.
The ACLJ has also launched a new website at www.BeHeardProject.com - a voice for the persecuted church.
For more information about the ACLJ, visit www.aclj.org.