Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), joined by 36 of his colleagues, wrote a letter to the United States Department of State on behalf of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been wrongfully detained by Iranian officials and is set to face trial next week for his Christian activities.
"Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental rights any and every individual should have," said Aderholt. "The wrongful detention of Christian Pastor Abedini, a United States citizen, because of his faith and humanitarian efforts, violates the most basic human rights and Iran's international commitments. No one should be discriminated against or persecuted because of their faith. It is my sincerest hope that the State Department will do everything in their power to bring Pastor Abedini back home to his family. Additionally, I hope this letter sends a message of how important this issue is and that Members of Congress are willing to do whatever we need to do to help with this effort," concluded Aderholt.
Below is the full text of the letter.
Dear Secretary Clinton,
The purpose of this letter is to bring to your personal attention the plight of Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old American citizen wrongfully detained in Iran, and to request your full engagement on his behalf.
As you are well aware, Iran has a long and troubling track record on a variety of human rights issues. Of particular note is Iran's regular and severe persecution of religious minorities -- especially Christians. In Iran, simply exercising the fundamental human right of religious freedom carries with it the threat of harsh and lengthy imprisonment, and in some cases even death. We acknowledge your commitment to stand against these atrocities, and we are resolved to assist you in that endeavor. We are also mindful that it is particularly incumbent on us to engage when this persecution is aimed at one of our own citizens.
It is our understanding that Mr. Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity when he was a teenager. In the years following his conversion, Mr. Abedini established a number of house churches in Iran, where Christian converts gathered to worship. In 2005, Mr. Abedini and his American wife moved to the United States. However, during a 2009 visit with his family in Tehran, the intelligence police arrested him and claimed that his activities were undermining national security. During the course of intense interrogations, the police asserted that Mr. Abedini deserved to die because of his conversion. Ultimately, Mr. Abedini was released on bail under an agreement that the Regime would not try him in exchange for his commitment to cease work with the house churches. Mr. Abedini honored these terms, and shifted his focus in Iran to humanitarian endeavors, including the establishment of an orphanage in Rasht, Iran. Although Mr. Abedini was periodically interrogated about his activities in Iran over the next few years, the Regime initially honored its end of the agreement.
However, on July 28, 2012, as Mr. Abedini was lawfully entering Iran from Turkey, the Revolutionary Guard stopped his bus and detained him. The Revolutionary Guard interrogated him, confiscated his passports, and ordered him to remain in Iran to face trial for his Christian activities. On September 26, 2012, the Revolutionary Guard raided Mr. Abedini's parents' home. During the raid, all religious materials were confiscated, the home ransacked, and Mr. Abedini taken into custody and confined at the infamously brutal Evin prison. While at Evin, Mr. Abedini has endured periods of solitary confinement, repeated physical assaults and intense interrogations, all while being denied access to legal counsel.
Mr. Abedini's charges and arbitrary detention violates numerous domestic laws and international obligations. As you know, Iran's own constitution (Articles 13, 14, and 23) guarantees his right to freely practice his religion. Iran's actions also contradict its commitment as represented by being a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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.
We are confident in your desire to ensure justice for each and every American citizen, and look forward to receiving notice of your planned actions.
Robert B. Aderholt
to view the full, signed letter to Secretary Clinton.
Aderholt currently serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Agriculture for the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is a member of the Committee's Commerce, Justice and Science; and Homeland Security Subcommittees, and also serves on the Helsinki Commission.