80 Members of Congress Call on Kerry to Seek Release of American Pastor Imprisoned by Iran

Pete Winn | February 15, 2013 | 4:00pm EST
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American Pastor Saeed Abedini with his wife and children in U.S., before he was imprisoned in Iran. (Photo: ACLJ)

(CNSNews.com) - More than 80 members of Congress have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him “to exhaust every possible option” to secure the release of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is facing a lengthy prison sentence in Iran because of his Christian faith.

The senators and congressmen -- Republicans and Democrats -- say the life of Pastor Saeed Abedini hangs in the balance and calls on Kerry to engage his case directly and without delay.

“As an American citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights,” the letter states.

The letter is signed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), co-chairman of the International Religious Freedom Caucus; Rep, an Henry Waxman (D-Calif.); Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

Abedini is a former Iranian Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000 and later became a U.S. citizen.

He was arrested last July by Iranian Revolutionary Guards after travelling back and froth from the U.S. to Iran as part of efforts to build an orphanage in Iran. He was convicted in September by an Iranian court in Tehran of “endangering Iranian national security” for trying to establish churches in Iran a decade earlier.

Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two children currently live in the United States.

The American Center for Law and Justice and the European Centre for Law and Justice in Strasbourg, France, which have been working with Abedini’s family to obtain his release, say the pastor was convicted during a “sham” trial in which his defense counsel was given only 24 hours to prepare a defense.

“This is a significant bipartisan effort to secure the freedom of a U.S. citizen who faces incredible torture and life-threatening punishment in one of Iran’s most brutal prisons – simply because of his Christian beliefs,” said ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow.

Sekulow welcomed the efforts of Congress to obtain the release of “Pastor Saeed” – as Abedini has become known internationally. But Sekulow said there is also an important principle at stake.

“The real issue here is this: the U.S. government must protect its citizens and exercise every diplomatic tool available to secure the freedom of Pastor Saeed,” Sekulow added.

Last week, the ACLJ and its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), urged the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to call on Iran to immediately release Pastor Saeed.

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