Iranian prisoner Saeed Abedini was severely beaten and taken from a hospital to a jail cell, Abedini's family reported yesterday.
Pastor Abedini, 34, has been held captive since September 2012, when he was arrested for allegedly trying to convert Iranians to Christianity. Evangelizing is illegal in Muslim country, and converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by death.
Abedini, who became a Christian in 2000, maintains that he traveled to his native country to help build a state-run orphanage, not to convert Muslims to Christianity. In January 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Two months ago, he was transferred to a hospital in the capital of Iran after suffering internal injuries from being beaten and tortured by prison guards and inmates.
Yesterday, his family witnessed him being beaten again, and reported that Abedini even lost consciousness during the assault.
Abedini's wife, Nagmeh, lives at the couple's home in Boise, Idaho with their two children. She was devastated by the news of her husband's beating and prison transfer.
"This is an extremely disappointing development—one that breaks my heart," she told the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
"Our family is deeply saddened and we continue to pray for Saeed—for his safety and his release. We are very grateful that so many people around the world continue to pray for Saeed."
The ACLJ represents the Abedini family in their fight to bring the husband and father home. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said the most recent development is upsetting, but not surprising in an area of unrest such as Iran.
"It is a very disturbing development that underscores what we have known from the very beginning—there is much upheaval and uncertainty in Iran," Sekulow told Fox News.
Despite this distressing setback, Sekulow said that the fight to release Abedini must continue.
"Pastor Saeed is an American citizen who is being punished because he's a Christian.
"That was unacceptable when he was taken into custody nearly two years ago, and it is unacceptable today."