Lawmakers urge Kerry to push Iran for jailed pastor's freedom

More than 80 lawmakers have signed a letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry to step up efforts to free American citizen and Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini from an Iranian prison.

Abedini, who was sentenced to seven years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison last month, has been unable to see his wife or two children, who are at the family home near Boise, Idaho. While Kerry has already called for his release, the senators and members of Congress called on him to “use every diplomatic avenue” to free Abedini.

“While there are countless important issues that come before you, few are more sacred than defending the most fundamental human rights,” states the letter, signed by dozens of members of both parties. It is even more incumbent upon us to stand against persecution when it is levied against our own citizens.


“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.”

Saeed, 32, traveled to his native land last summer to help build a secular orphanage. Once there, supporters say he was arrested on charges that stem from decade-old efforts to establish a home-based Christian ministry in the Islamic republic.

Abedini's relatives visited him at the prison this month and said he is demoralized and unaware of international efforts to secure his freedom. He has been unable to communicate with his wife, Nagameh, and their two children since being sentenced.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s family and has spearheaded efforts to win his release, applauded the call.

“This is a significant bi-partisan 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 Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ.

Among those signing the letter were senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., as well as powerful House members including Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

The latest push comes just days after the ACLJ and its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice, filed a document urging the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva to call on Iran to immediately release Saeed.