European Parliament Calls on Iran to Release Pastor Saeed Abedini and other Prisoners of Conscience

By ECLJ1381436975263

Strasbourg, France, 10 October 2013 - The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) applauds the European Parliament for raising the issue of Christian persecution in a resolution and calling on Iran to “exonerate and immediately release Saeed Abedini and all others individuals held or charged on account of their religion”.  The resolution entitled “Cases of Violence and Persecution Against Christians, notably in Maaloula, Syria, Peshawar, Pakistan and the Case of Saeed Abedini, Iran” had cross-party support by members of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD), the European Conservative and Reformist party (ECR), the European People’s Party (EPP), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and the Social and Democrats (S&D).

The ECLJ is very grateful to several members of parliament without whose efforts this resolution would not have passed.  Leading efforts on this resolution were Vice President Oldrich Vlasak MEP (ECR), Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (ECR), Peter van Dalen MEP (ECR), Fiorello Provera MEP (EFD), Bastiaan Belder MEP (EFD), Tunne Kelam MEP (EPP), and Jan Olbrycht MEP (EPP). This resolution is an important step in an ongoing effort to secure Pastor Abedini’s release.

“As Iran continues to try and build diplomatic relations with western countries, releasing Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been wrongfully imprisoned solely for his faith, would be a significant confidence building measure,” said Jordan Sekulow, Senior Counsel of the ECLJ. “This recent action taken by members of the European Parliament signifies an important step forward in raising this issue to a new level - keeping pressure on Iran and keeping Pastor Abedini in the news. We are very grateful for the support of those Members of European Parliament who are standing for religious liberty and freedom and demanding that Iran release Pastor Abedini immediately.”

Pastor Saeed, a 33-year-old husband and father of two, has been illegally detained in Iran for over a year. In January 2013, the Iranian government convicted him of intentionally undermining the security of Iran through gatherings of Christians in private homes, and sentenced him to eight years’ of imprisonment.  The American Center for Law and Justice, an affiliate of the ECLJ, has launched a massive social media campaign to generate support for Pastor Saeed. Nearly 170,000 individuals have joined in the campaign to send letters to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and over 625,000 individuals have signed a petition calling for Pastor Saeed’s release.

The resolution expressed that the European Parliament “[i]s deeply concerned about the fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for over a year and was sentenced to eight years of prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs” and called on the government of Iran to exonerate and release Pastor Saeed and other prisoners held for their religious beliefs. 

Additionally, the Parliament “call[ed] on Iran to take steps to ensure that full respect is shown for the right to freedom of religion or belief, including by ensuring that its legislation and practices fully conform to Article 18 of the ICCPR”; recognizing that this fundamental right includes “the right of everyone to change his or her religion, if he or she so chooses”.
The resolution is posted here.

The European Centre for Law and Justice is an international, Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and around the world. The ECLJ holds special Consultative Status before the United Nations/ECOSOC since 2007. The ECLJ acts within the judicial, legislative, and cultural domains. The ECLJ defends, in particular, the right to religious freedom, the life and dignity of persons before the European Court of Human Rights and the other mechanisms afforded by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The ECLJ bases its actions on “the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of [European] peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy” (Preamble of the Statute of the Council of Europe).