The White House has issued a strong statement pressing for the immediate release of the American pastor held in Iran for his Christian faith, while his wife and attorney present his case to the UN Human Rights Council this week.
“We remain deeply concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini who has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs,” the statement said.
Abedini, a 33-year-old Idaho resident and father of two young children, is currently serving his term in Tehran's infamous Evin prison.
The White House statement continues:
“We have reached out to numerous international partners to raise awareness of Mr. Abedini's case and to press Iranian officials to provide him medical attention and to release him,” the White House statement said.
“We continue to send requests for consular access and to press for his release through our Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran. As in every communication we send on this case, the Iranians refuse all requests, as they do not recognize Mr. Abedini's U.S. citizenship. We will continue to press for Mr. Abedini's release . . . until [he is] safely returned to [his] famil[y]."
The written statement was issued after Friday’s White House briefing where Fox News radio correspondent Mike Majchrowitz, raised a question about Abedini.
It marked the administration’s fullest disclosure yet of what course of action it has taken on Abedini’s behalf since he was arrested last September.
Since September, when he was pulled off a bus, arrested and taken to Evin Prison, Abedini has suffered long stints in solitary confinement, and, according to his family and attorneys in Iran, beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates.
For months, he reportedly has been suffering from serious injuries, including internal bleeding from beatings, with no proper medical attention.
More than a decade ago, Abedini began working as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran’s underground home church communities for Christian converts who are forbidden from praying in public churches. He was arrested in 2009, but released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran.
When he returned to Iran last year to help build a state-run, secular orphanage, Iranian police imprisoned him.
After spending months imprisoned without any notice of charges, Abedini was sentenced January 27 to eight years in prison.
The attorneys at the American Center for Law and Justice representing the pastor’s American family met last week with State Department officials after noting U.S. diplomats had not issued a single press release demanding Abedini's release.