Moments ago we received vital information from Senator Marco Rubio's office. Senator Rubio had issued a written question to Senator John Kerry – as nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – asking Senator Kerry about Pastor Saeed. The text of the question and answer follow:
Question: On January 15th, I joined 11 of my Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Sec. Clinton expressing our grave concern over the detainment of a U.S. citizen, Saeed Abedini, in Iran. Mr. Abedini was in Iran on a humanitarian mission – working with the Regime to open a non-religious orphanage. On his ninth trip to Iran since 2009 for this purpose, the Revolutionary Guard detained him and threw him in prison. Mr. Abedini went before an Iranian judge just this Monday on charges stemming from his conversion in the year 2000 to Christianity and his involvement with house churches in Iran. The National Security Council has specifically called for his release, and we are grateful for that.
· If confirmed, would you commit to echo as Secretary of State the National Security Council's call for Mr. Abedini's release?
Answer: The U.S. government remains concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who is detained in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day on January 21, 2013, to present his defense. We remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini's trial. I, along with the U.S. government, condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him. The Department of State is in close contact with the Abedini family and is actively engaged on this case.
By issuing this personal call, Senator Kerry has indicated a greater commitment to Pastor Saeeds' freedom than our current Secretary of State. We thank Senator Kerry for his statement, and we fully intend to hold him to this commitment upon his confirmation. Senator Kerry has an ideal opportunity to begin his tenure at the State Department by reaffirming American commitments to religious freedom and to the safety of American citizens.
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