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More than 250,000 Americans signed a petition asking our political leaders to unify in support of Pastor Saeed, and the response continues to build. Below we’re tracking the key statements and will add to this post as more statements are made.
Jay Carney: Well we are deeply disappointed that Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to 8 years in prison in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of his trial. We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini. As you know the State department is in close contact with the Abedini family and is actively engaged on this case. For further date details I think the state department is the best place to go. We obviously have a variety of means, including this podium to express our views on matters like this, and we are very concerned about this and very concerned about the process that led to this.
Victoria Nuland: We remain very concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who is detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day to present his defense. And we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and the transparency of his trial. We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal rights of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and to release him. We are in close contact with his family as well and we’re actively engaged in the case.
Senator Kerry (just confirmed as Secretary of State):
The U.S. government remains concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who is detained in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day on January 21, 2013, to present his defense. We remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini's trial. I, along with the U.S. government, condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him. The Department of State is in close contact with the Abedini family and is actively engaged on this case.
We are grateful for your consistent condemnation of the Iranian regime’s actions that violate religious freedoms and we believe your voice can motivate countries and international organizations that have diplomatic relations with Iran to action. Although the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, we strongly encourage the State Department to exhaust all efforts to secure Mr. Abedini’s prompt return. Saeed’s efforts to provide humanitarian relief and exercise fundamental human rights should be applauded not condemned. We should not stand idly by while the Iranian regime arbitrarily persecutes a U.S. citizen who has committed no crime.
We are both mindful of the fact that the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and grateful for your faithful condemnation of Iran’s human rights record. However, we believe there is still a great deal of good that the State Department can and should do on behalf of Mr. Abedini, one of our own citizens. We respectfully request that you leave no stone unturned in your efforts to bring Mr. Abedini home to his family. We believe that strong and sustained advocacy from the State Department would do much to rally the voice of the world against this wrongful detainment. As such, we stand ready to join with you in demanding Mr. Abedini’s full, immediate, and unconditional exoneration and release.
Mr. Abedini’s detention and sentence demonstrate the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for the most fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion. I fully support the State Department’s condemnation of this sentencing and call for the release of this American pastor.
The news out of Iran of the ‘trial’ and conviction of Iranian-born American pastor Saeed Abedini is deeply troubling. His sentence to serve 8 years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison is a travesty of justice. Since 1999, Iran has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a Country of Particular Concern for particularly severe violations of religious freedom, especially of religious minorities including Christians and Baha’is, and increasingly the lawyers who courageously defend them. The long arm of the regime’s repression has now extended to an American citizen. Recognizing that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, there is still far more that the administration can do to raise the profile of this case. President Obama should personally speak out and press for Pastor Abedini’s immediate and unconditional release.
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,” said Aderholt. “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.
The harsh imprisonment, trial, and conviction of American citizen Saeed Abedini yet again reveals how Iran is completely devoid of any semblance of justice towards its own citizens or citizens from any other country. As a further testament to the utter corruption of Iran’s rule of law, Mr. Abedini was charged on completely false pretenses: the Iranian judiciary accused Mr. Abedini of threatening the national security of Iran because of his involvement, over ten years ago, in Christian house churches when house churches were free to operate and not perceived as a threat to Iran. All charges against Mr. Abedini are completely ludicrous.
What type of national security threat does a pastor pose to Iran? Even if Saeed Abedini were preaching a Christian message, which he claims he was not, what type of threat is that? The safest and strongest nations in the world are places where individuals can freely express their religious beliefs; in contrast, only in dangerous places is religious liberty stifled. National security is at stake when regimes like Iran's impose severe and inhumane restrictions on religious expression. I call on President Obama and the State Department to stand firm for Abedini's immediate release.
The charges against Pastor Abedini were contrived, the process was irregular and deeply flawed, and the conviction flies in the face of both Iranian and international law,” said Lantos Swett. “Judge Pir-Abassi has been responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. We call on the Iranian government to immediately release Pastor Abedini. In addition, we call on the U.S. and the international community to raise Pastor Abedini’s case in all international fora, including the U.N. Human Rights Council. We reiterate our call for the U.S. government to freeze the assets and deny entry into the U.S. of Judge Pir-Abassi, and other Iranian judges and government officials who have committed violations of religious freedom and related human rights, including the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, who would have had to approve the Pastor’s harsh sentence.
While I fully recognize the myriad national security issues posed by the fanatical theocracy in Tehran, I believe the case of Pastor Abedini deserves your full attention and engagement. To this end, it is imperative that you personally add your voice to those calling for Pastor Abedini’s immediate and unconditional release. There is no better symbol of American values, specifically freedom of religion, or demonstration of loyalty to the welfare of our citizens abroad than local and sustained support directly from the President of the United States.
I believe that anything less than your personal attention will only guarantee that the injustice committed by the ruling mullahs against Pastor Abedini prevails, the separation from his loving family endures, and his good works remain in abeyance while imprisoned.
We will continue to post additional statements, and we will add the international response as our new petition bears fruit.
As we have said many times before, national and international pressure helped free Pastor Youcef. It can help Pastor Saeed. Each of us – public official and private citizen – cannot relent until Saeed is home with his family in Idaho.