WASHINGTON—Six members of Congress continued pressuring the State Department to act on behalf of jailed Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry earlier today.
The letter comes five days after a congressional hearing held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on the plight of Abedini and various religious minorities in Iran. Although testimony was requested, no one from the State Department was present at the well-attended Friday hearing.
“There was a palpable sense of disappointment in the room that our government didn’t deem the hearing important enough to provide a witness,” the letter states. “In short, the [State Department] misled the commission and in so doing sent a dangerous message to rogue regimes the world over—even human rights abuses that compromise the safety and security of American citizens will be met with virtual silence from the U.S. government.”
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the commission, said the official record would be left open for one week to give the State Department time to respond.
“The State Department should swiftly issue a public statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Pastor Abedini,” the letter to Kerry implores. “Further, the department, preferably through a personal phone call from you to [Abedini’s wife] Naghmeh Abedini, should make it clear that the U.S. government will dedicate the full resources at its disposal to securing the freedom of Pastor Abedini—one of our own citizens.”
Wolf also pledged to Naghmeh Abedini that the commission would “stay with this” until her husband, an American citizen, is released from Iran’s brutal Evin Prison.
Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Mark Simpson (R-Idaho), and Chris Smith (R-N.J.), joined Wolf in signing the letter. (Download a PDF of the complete letter to Secretary Kerry.)