European religious-rights advocates meeting at a recent conference in Berlin expressed disbelief that the U. S. didn’t obtain the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini as a condition for its nuclear deal with Iran.
American Center for Law and Justice Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said representatives he met in the German capital from countries such as Germany, Britain, France and Turkey are “stunned that the U.S. failed to secure the freedom of one of its own citizens.”
“While there is growing global concern about Pastor Saeed, there’s also confusion as well,” Sekulow said.
Jay Sekulow and ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow were both in Berlin taking advantage of European interest in obtaining Abedini’s release.
Jay Sekulow noted the issue of religious freedom continues to generate interest around the globe.
“As part of our commitment to working to secure the freedom of Pastor Saeed, we continue to work through our affiliate organizations internationally and continue to reach out to countries about Pastor Saeed’s plight,” he said.
Sekulow said he’s “encouraged by the fact that a growing number of countries understand that Iran’s unlawful imprisonment of Pastor Saeed not only violates international law, but represents a blatant disregard for human rights and religious freedom.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is joining the cause to free the pastor. Cruz said in a statement that recent reports of Abedini’s “brutal treatment” in the Rajai Shahr prison are “deeply disturbing” but not surprising.
“Such abuse was inevitable after this American citizen, whose only crime is the peaceful practice of his Christian faith, was transferred to Iran’s equivalent of death row – not coincidentally on the 34th anniversary of the hostage crisis in Tehran, a day celebrated by Iranians as ‘Death to America Day,’” he said.
Cruz said it’s “unconscionable that senior American diplomats, including the secretary of state, who were conducting cordial negotiations with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva in the days after Pastor Saeed’s transfer, could not bring themselves to even mention his name, or those of fellow Americans detained in Iran, Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson.”
“We are informed by administration officials that the issue of the American prisoners is ‘on the margins’ of more important diplomatic work, and that in any event, President Obama mentioned Abedini and Hekmati to Iranian President Hasan Rouhani when they spoke by telephone in September.”
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the White House has not forgotten the American pastor.
“We continue to have serious concerns about fate of Saeed Abedini. Mr Abedini has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs,” Meehan said.
“President Obama raised Mr. Abedini’s case in his September 27 phone call with President Rouhani, and we continue to urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Abedini so that he may be reunited with his family as soon as possible. We call again on Iranian authorities to permit a visit by officials of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to determine the well-being of Mr. Abedini,” Meehan said.
The White House’s claim, however, has been criticized as woefully insufficient. WND reported last week that intervention on Pastor Abedini’s behalf is coming from another source – flamboyant billionaire Donald Trump.
An outraged Donald Trump told WND in an interview the U.S. could have won freedom for Abedini – if only Obama’s team would have requested it in nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
“It’s an outrageous situation, and I think President Obama, just for the asking, could have gotten the Christian pastor released from this horrific prison he’s enduring right now,” said Trump. “I’m hearing it’s a tortuous prison and not a good situation, and it’s not good at all.”
Trump earlier had tweeted, “How does Obama rationalize giving Iran $8B in sanction relief when a Christian pastor is being tortured in an Iranian prison?”
The day before that, he tweeted, “Why didn’t Obama, as part of the negotiation, free the Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini?”
WND also reported that Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., believes Pastor Abedini’s cause needs both prayer and political pressure.
“Are people praying for Pastor Abedini? Are they sending letters to the president asking for his release?” Wolf asked. “Pray, write, contact President Obama and contact Secretary [of State John] Kerry.
“This is a time that the American people have an obligation to speak out and urge the Obama Administration to be more forceful in their advocacy,” Wolf asserted.
Wolf also said his congressional committee has advocated on behalf of Abedini.
“We’ve had hearings on Pastor Abedini. The administration has been very weak on Pastor Abedini,” Wolf stated. “Everyone who is concerned for human rights ought to be contacting President Obama and Secretary Kerry asking them to publicly begin advocating for Pastor Abedini.”
Jay Sekulow called for continuing to “pressure the Obama Administration to engage – to stand up for a U.S. citizen – to demand the release of Pastor Saeed as he faces life-threatening conditions in an Iranian prison simply because of his Christian faith.”