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WASHINGTON – The Taliban was celebrating this week the release of five Guantanamo Bay inmates who previously worked at the command level in the Islamist terror group, and Barack Obama was celebrating the return to America of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
But for Warren Weinstein, 72, it wasn’t quite such a good time.
He remained in a Pakistani lockup because, according to a 2013 statement from the U.S. State Department, “The U.S. government doesn’t make concessions to people who kidnap U.S. citizens.”
The issue arose this week after Obama’s announcement that Bergdahl was released in exchange for the top Taliban chiefs who had been held in Gitmo, and who had been determined several times to be too dangerous to be released.
Obama explained that this is what happens as wars end, that soldiers are repatriated. But his direct intervention in the Bergdahl case, which has been put under investigation by the military because of the odd circumstances of his departure from his military unit in 2009, seems at odds with a hands-off approach taken in several other scenarios where Americans are locked up in other countries.
Among them a Marine who made a wrong turn into Mexico, a Christian pastor jailed in Iran over his faith, a woman facing execution in Sudan for a religious conviction – even though her children likely are American citizens – and others.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., specifically asked about Weinstein and two other Americans reportedly still in the custody of militants aligned with the Taliban.
“Should this still be the case, I would like to know why these individuals were not included in the negotiations that resulted in the release of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay,” he said.
The issue of a government negotiating with those who are holding in custody a soldier, a pastor or a mother is delicate, according to Jennifer Dekel, the director of research and communications for the Endowment for Mideast Truth.
The organization, which provides research and analysis that challenges misrepresentations about issues in the Middle East, and “never bows to political correctness,” supplies details and analysis to members of Congress.
“Our hearts go out to Mr. Weinstein and his family during this painful time. He doesn’t deserve this illegal imprisonment,” Dekel said. “He should be freed immediately by al-Qaida.”
Dekel explained the intricacies of such events, however.
“In general, EMET is always concerned about trading hostages with terrorists. It may encourage the terrorists, and others, to grab more Americans later on. As history shows, the act of negotiating with terrorists and terror supporting regimes, such as Iran, typically threatens a nation’s national security and makes it appear weaker to its enemies.
“Another example, when Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO terror group, Palestinian terrorism increased, and each time Israel made additional concessions for ‘peace,’ including releasing Palestinian terrorists, it was, in turn, met with more violence, and more demands.”
Weinstein is a former State University of New York professor who was taken by al-Qaida Aug. 13, 2011.
The idea of negotiating for his release has been brought up, but has been shot down by Washington.
State Department officials said, “That’s not something we do. We’re not in the business of doing that. We’ve called on those who are holding him to release him immediately.
“We’ll keep working with folks to try and achieve that goal,” State Department officials said only months ago.
In a statement released Saturday, Weinstein’s wife, daughters, son-in-law and grandchildren say they join the nation in celebrating the release of Bergdahl.
But they say they “implore our government to redouble its effort to explore all possible avenues” to free Weinstein.
They note his health is failing and they say they are “desperate for his release before it’s too late.”
The State Department most recently told WND that officials “remain concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Weinstein and continue to actively work with Pakistani authorities to try to secure his release.”
“We remain in contact with Warren Weinstein’s family in the United States and are providing all appropriate consular assistance,” officials said in a statement to WND. “The United States condemns kidnappings of any kind, and we call for the immediate release of the victim and the prosecution of those responsible.”
They then said they could not provide additional information.
On Dec. 21, 2011, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed to be holding Weinstein.
State Department officials have explained that Obama took action in Bergdahl’s case because he cared about the life and safety of an individual “who served our country in the military.”
But similar actions haven’t been adopted for other situations, where circumstances are different. In the case of jailed Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, who was taken into custody after making a wrong turn and driving into Mexico – with his legal guns in his truck – there’s been virtually no public action by Washington.
His mother, Jill Tahmooressi, said he spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan, suffering several injuries. She’s been upset not only with the Mexican government’s handling of the situation, but her own government.
“I want more than three words uttered about my son. All this administration has said is that they will ‘raise the issue’ with regard to my son’s imprisonment for a mistake,” she said.
In the case of Saeed Abedini, the American pastor jailed in Iran over his faith, federal officials have talked about the case multiple times. But there have been no attempts at an exchange or something that have been made public.
WND reported he had been imprisoned since the end of 2012. He had been transferred to a private hospital in March due to chronic stomach pain caused by repeated beatings, but his family said he recently was beaten by guards and returned to prison.
“He is a U.S. citizen, and it is also clear that he is being punished because of his Christian faith. This disturbing development along with the new beatings raise serious new concerns about his health – especially now since he’s been returned to a prison cell,” said Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
“We remain concerned about Mr. Abedini’s health and welfare, especially given reports of mistreatment during his transfer back to Rajai Shahr prison,” a federal official said.
Then there’s the case of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian in Sudan who has been sentenced to death for leaving Islam, even though she grew up Christian.
It was her father who was Muslim.
WND reported the U.S. has thus far abandoned her to her fate, even though her husband, Daniel Wani, is an American, and presumably her two children are American through their father.
More than a year ago, Islamists attacked a natural gas complex in Algeria, and while seven Americans made it out safely, three did not.
The State Department noted the militants carrying out the attack had offered to release Victor Lynn Lovelady and Gordon Lee Rowan in exchange for the freedom of two prominent terror suspects jailed in the U.S.: Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind sheikh convicted of trying to blow up pieces of New York, and Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of shooting at U.S. soldiers.
The Obama administration rejected the offer and the two Americans eventually ended up dead, along with Frederick Buttaccio, whose death was reported earlier during the takeover.
Hunter told Breitbart News he was concerned about Weinstein and two other Americans who have gone missing in that part of the world: Caitlin Coleman and the child she was pregnant with when she and her Canadian husband disappeared in Afghanistan.