BOISE, ID (CNN/KBOI) -- An Idaho pastor is set to stand trial in Iran for allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. If convicted, the Boise man faces the death penalty. Family and friends of the preacher are praying for a miracle.
Boise pastor Saeed Abedini is scheduled to stand trial in Tehran and his life is at stake. Abedini, a 32-year-old Iranian-American, is a member of the Calvary Chapel where fellow church members are praying for his release and safe return. Church member Lauren Phillips says, "Some days he's treated well, he's given candy. While other days they beat him and threaten him saying we're going to hang you for your faith."
Friends and family hope international pressure can be brought to bear but a Washington D.C. human rights group says the United States government is dragging its feet. Tiffany Barrans, international legal director for American Center for Law and Justice says, "Obviously, the political climate between us and Iran, this is probably the worst its been in years. We are concerned that Saeed's life could easily be used as a political pawn."
Tehran says Abedini was trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, a capital crime in Iran. But Abedini's friends say he was only finalizing plans for an orphanage and had traveled frequently to his native country and Boise. Phillips says, "He's a great guy, he's a dad and husband and he's very gentle, he has a very gentle spirit and um very kind. We can't stand idly by while an American citizen is being held in a foreign prison, without formally being charged and for nothing other than his faith."