(RNN) - Lawyers representing the family of an American jailed in an Iranian prison will appeal his conviction, calling it a violation of human rights and a "mockery of justice."
Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who became an American citizen in 2010, was sentenced on Sunday to eight years in the notorious Evin Prison for "threatening the national security of Iran" for his involvement in an underground house church movement.
Lawyers with the American Center for Law and Justice say the sentence is "effectively a death sentence" due to the brutal, abusive conditions at the prison and acknowledge an appeal by his Iranian attorney is likely meaningless.
"An appeal has been filed, but that doesn't mean anything in Iran," said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow on his radio show "Jay Sekulow Live."
The charges, lawyers said, stemmed from the year 2000 when Saeed, now 32, converted from Islam to Christianity. In Iran, converting from Islam or trying to convert a Muslim to another faith can be punishable by lengthy jail sentences and death.
Abedini was doing work toward setting up an orphanage when he was arrested last year. He and his attorney were barred from all but one day of his trial and he will not be allowed to talk to his family until his release.
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and children, ages 4 and 6, live in Idaho.
Naghmeh Abedini, represented by the ACLJ, released a statement Sunday saying, "I am devastated for my husband and my family."
"We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil."
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the State Department is "actively engaged in the case" and called for his release, but the White House has had no comment since his conviction.
While the ACLJ continues to press the U.S. government to do more, the organization will now turn to the United Nations and European Union to pressure Iran for Abedini's release.
They've also posted a petition, urging the U.N. and European Union to "take all available diplomatic action to press Iran to respect human rights and release Pastor Saeed."
As of Monday afternoon, the petition had more than 27,000 signatures.
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