Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the plight of American Pastor Saeed Abedini today in his remarks presenting the State Department’s 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom.
In his remarks, Secretary Kerry stated:
In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs. We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it. And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Baha’is to Ahmadi Muslims.
So we have a long way to go to safeguard these rights. We also have a long way to go when governments use national security as an excuse to repress members of minority religious groups.
We are thankful for Secretary Kerry’s stated commitment to not just talk about Pastor Saeed’s freedom but in fact “work for it.”
The report itself, a yearly update for Congress on the state of religious freedom across the globe, also mentions Pastor Saeed in several places, explaining the excruciating ordeal that he is enduring:
Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, detained since September 2012, was sentenced in January to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs. Officials at Evin Prison reportedly subjected Abedini to physical and psychological abuse during his detention, and repeatedly denied him medical treatment and consular access. On November 3, authorities transferred Abedini to Rajai Shahr Prison, a facility reputed to be overcrowded and with insufficient medical care, placing him in a ward known to house violent offenders. Abedini reportedly remained in Rajai Shahr Prison at year’s end. . . .
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore has limited opportunity to directly raise concerns with the government over its religious freedom abuses and restrictions. On several occasions, however, senior U.S. government officials, including the President and the Secretary of State, raised directly with their Iranian counterparts the case of Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, who is being held on charges related to his religious beliefs, and called for his release. The Department of State also publicly called for the release of Mr. Abedini and other prisoners held on religious grounds.
September 26, 2014 will mark the two-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed’s wrongful imprisonment for his faith. Continuing to highlight Iran’s grave violation of his human rights is a critical part of the effort to obtain his release.
On that day, people from all around the world at hundreds of locations are preparing to hold prayer vigils for Pastor Saeed’s freedom. You can learn more about these vigils and how you can participate at http://BeHeardProject.com/prayer-vigil/Saeed. Also, if you are interested in hosting a vigil, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we continue working for Pastor Saeed’s freedom, please share his story, pray, and sign the petition for his release.