U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini has been shackled by guards at an Iranian hospital and told he must return to prison without receiving vital treatment, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
Abedini was recently taken to a private hospital in Iran after numerous beatings at the notorious Rajai Shahr Prison. The American pastor was imprisoned in the summer of 2012 on charges related to his Christian faith.
Abedini was suddenly pinned down and restrained by Iranian guards on Wednesday at the hospital, the ACLJ reports. Doctors told him he must return to prison and declined to perform surgery to address the chronic pain in his stomach.
The ACLJ said the change in Abedini’s status might have been related to diplomacy:
The timing of both of these moves is very suspect. In what appears to be a move to put Iran in a favorable light, Pastor Saeed was moved to the hospital, something his Iranian family has been actively seeking for months, coinciding with the arrival of the High Representative of the European Union, Catherine Ashton in Iran. However, as soon as she departed Iran, Pastor Saeed was informed that he would be moved back to prison without receiving any real treatment.
The EU has been faithfully raising Pastor Saeed’s case for some time, and this move would allow Iranian officials to report that he was receiving medical treatment if his case was brought up during the EU’s visit to Iran.
Ashton met with women’s rights activists while in Tehran, a move that angered Iranian officials. The son of one woman Ashton met with, Sattar Beheshti, died of a "quasi-murder" after being interrogated by Iran’s cyber police, according to a Tehran court that did not charge any of the officials involved.
The ACLJ called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to affirm his reputation as a purported moderate by securing Abedini’s release:
While Iran’s actions seem to undercut the sincerity of Iran’s leaders in promising the world change in Iran, there is still an opportunity for President Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme Leader to act.
March 21st is the Iranian new year, a time when clemency is often granted to prisoners of conscience. If Iran wants the world to see it in a new light, now is the time to grant clemency for Pastor Saeed. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said clemency could be possible. Now would be the time.