Today, at its daily press briefing a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department spoke out for the first time about American Pastor Saeed Abedini who has been imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith.
The State Department expressed its “serious concerns” about his fate and acknowledged that the sole reason for his imprisonment in Iran is because of his “religious beliefs.”
We are pleased that the State Department has begun to speak out about the abuse of this American citizen.
While the State Department did “call on Iranian officials to respect Iran’s own laws and provide Mr. Abedini access to an attorney,” it stopped short of calling for his immediate release.
Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment for his Christian faith is a clear and absolute violation of international human rights laws, and we urge the State Department to employ every available measures to secure the immediate release of Pastor Saeed, an American citizen.
The State Department’s statement is below:
We have serious concerns about the fate of two U.S. citizens detained in Iran, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini. Let me start with Mr. Abedini. He was arrested by Iranian officials more than three months ago on charges related to his religious beliefs. We understand that a hearing will be held soon, and we call on Iranian officials to respect Iran’s own laws and provide Mr. Abedini access to an attorney.
With regard to Mr. Hekmati, we are deeply concerned about him. As you say, Brad, he has now been detained by Iranian officials for 500 days. We call on Iranian authorities also to permit a visit by officials of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, our protecting power, both to Mr. Abedini and to Mr. Hekmati – Mr. Hekmati hasn’t been allowed visitors for some six months – to check on their welfare.
Over 66,000 Americans have already spoken out on Pastor Saeed’s behalf urging action from the U.S. government to free this persecuted pastor. As we saw repeatedly in Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s case, when thousands of people here in America and around the world take action, governments listen, and that immense international pressure led to Pastor Youcef’s eventual release both times Iran has imprisoned him.
The State Department’s statement today is a great first step in engaging world leaders to pressure Iran for Pastor Saeed’s release. It is critical that direct action be taken on his behalf, as his recent letter notes that he has been told he “will hang” for his faith and has received “beatings” while in Evin Prison.