Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, an American imprisoned in Iran on charges of evangelizing, was sentenced this morning to eight years in prison.

According to the American Center for Law and Justice, Abedini was verbally sentenced in Tehran by Judge Pir-Abassi, known as the “hanging judge,” to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. He will serve the time in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, known as one of the most brutal.

The evidence, the ACLJ reports, was based on Abedini’s activities primarily during the early 2000s, when house churches were not considered a threat in Iran.

Iran’s state news agency reported that Abedini, who was born in Iran but now lives in Idaho, would soon be free. But the report, which came on the first day of Abedini’s trial, was seen by Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, as just another cruel manipulation.

The 34-year-old father of two denied evangelizing in Iran and claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

The exact crimes he is accused of only became public on Monday, when the prosecutor outlined charges that Abedini undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and that he was attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.

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