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Jan 27, 2013 7:50 PM by Associated Press

American pastor sentenced to 8 years in Iran

BOISE, Idaho - The U.S. State Department says an American pastor who has been jailed in Iran since September has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Spokesman Darby Holladay said Sunday that the department is calling on Iran to respect Saeed Abedini's human rights and release him.

Earlier this month Iran's semi-official news agency, ISNA, quoted Abedini's attorney as saying his client stood trial in the Revolutionary Court on charges of attempting to undermine state security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes.

The pastor, who is of Iranian origin but lives in Boise, Idaho, has rejected the charges.

Holladay says the State Department is in close contact with Abedini's family and actively engaged in the case.

The agency says it condemns Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion.

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