The U.S. State Department has made its first proactive statement on behalf of imprisoned U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini – a long overdue step in the right direction for the State Department.
Yesterday, Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe presented remarks before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland calling for Pastor Saeed’s release.
We note with particular concern the worsening plight of religious minority communities in Iran, including Christians, Sunnis, Sufis, Jews, and Baha'i. Iranian officials continue to restrict these communities' freedom to practice their religious beliefs free from harassment, threat, or intimidation. Christian pastor Saeed Abedini's continuing harsh treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities exemplifies this trend. We repeat our call for the Government of Iran to release Mr. Abedini, and others who are unjustly imprisoned, and to cease immediately its persecution of all religious minority communities. The United States also repeats its call for the Government of Iran to provide without delay the urgent medical attention Mr. Abedini needs.
The State Department's comments were presented in regard to the European Union's "Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief." The 27-member EU called for Pastor Saeed's release previously before the U.N. Human Rights Council.
After first failing to present his case at the U.N. Human Right Council on a day focusing on human rights in Iran and refusing to appear before a congressional hearing focusing on Pastor Saeed's plight, this is the first proactive statement on Saeed's behalf by the State Department. This statement comes after a congressional hearing, a petition with nearly 550,000 signatures, constant media coverage, and multiple meetings with the State Department. It is a positive step in the right direction and very good news for Pastor Saeed's case.
In conjunction with this statement to the U.N., Secretary of State John Kerry must issue a statement calling for Pastor Saeed's release and make Pastor Saeed's freedom a top priority for the State Department. Yes, the comments before the U.N. by the U.S. Ambassador are helpful. But the world is watching – Iran is watching. Like members of Congress, we continue to call on Secretary of State Kerry to make a public, proactive statement calling on Iran to release Pastor Saeed without delay.
A statement from Secretary Kerry is needed and would send a powerful signal to Iran and to our allies. Time is of the essence for this U.S. citizen imprisoned and beaten in Iran.