The American Center for Law and Justice is delighted that Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to persuade Iran to release imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini.
But the non-profit constitutional advocacy group has questions for President Obama.
ACLJ International Director Tiffany Barrans said that Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, is also grateful for Kerry’s intervention but believes her husband is not a high priority for the administration.
“Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, is grateful for Secretary Kerry’s statement, but like the ACLJ, she believes that the lack of presidential engagement sends a resounding echo to Tehran,” Barrans told WND.
“While Saeed is important enough for the secretary, Saeed’s freedom, and religious freedom in general, does not rate high on the president’s priorities,” Barrans said.
She said ACLJ’s leaders, nevertheless, remain optimistic.
“We are hopeful that through Secretary Kerry’s most recent statement that Iran will consider the U.S. government’s request that Iran cooperate for the immediate release of Pastor Saeed,” she said.
Saeed Abedini, a convert from Islam to Christianity, is a dual Iranian-American citizen who lives in Boise, Idaho, with his American wife and two children. On a ministry trip to Iran one year ago, he was detained and later, in September 2012, incarcerated in the notorious Evin Prison. In January of this year, he was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of undermining national security for his effort in the early 2000s to establish house churches in Iran.
Kerry said in his statement that the U.S. was asking the Islamic Republic to “work cooperatively with us in our efforts to help U.S. citizens Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini to return to their families.”
Levinson disappeared from Kish Island in 2007, and Hekmati has been detained on “false espionage charges” for two years.
Abedini has spent a year in detention for his faith.
In a statement, ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow asked for more involvement from Obama.
“Paper statements alone will not bring about his freedom. It is time for the president of the United States to engage his case. When a U.S. citizen – a Christian pastor – is illegally imprisoned in a foreign land, it should be a top priority of the president to bring him home,” Sekulow said.
Kerry’s demand that the Iranians release the American pastor comes just days after an Iranian court denied Abedini’s appeal.
Kerry’s statement dealt with Abedini’s case in more detail.
“The United States is also deeply concerned about the fate of dual U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini. On September 26, Mr. Abedini will have spent a year in detention in Iran. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs.
“President Rouhani has shared in his speeches and interviews over the past few months his hope and vision to improve the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s relationship with the world,” Kerry said.
“Those men belong at home with those who love them and miss them,” he said.
ACLJ has reported Abedini’s physical condition isn’t good, because of beatings from prison guards at Evin Prison.
The health concerns were also addressed by the U. S. ambassador to the U.N., Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, in comments made to the U. N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The ambassador called for Iran to release Abedini.
WND reported in March that the Iranian government was promising medical care for Abedini. However, the promise was going unfulfilled, his supporters said.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., previously demanded that Kerry intervene. The congressman also said the Iranians should be grateful for the pastor’s work.
“Pastor Abedini’s arrest, trial and now conviction for his Christian and humanitarian efforts in Iran are completely unjust and are another sad example of Iran’s blatant disregard for religious freedom, the rule of law and its international commitments,” Aderholt said in a statement.
“Pastor Abedini is an American citizen, who has done nothing but try to bring good to Iran, through his humanitarian efforts, including founding an orphanage and practicing the faith in which he believes. He should be released immediately and sent home to the United States to be with his wife and children,” Aderholt said.