Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today spoke out against the recent conviction and prison sentence of an American Christian pastor in Iran and reiterated the need for a Special Envoy position within the State Department to advocate on behalf of vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.
News outlets reported that Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, was sentenced yesterday to eight years in Iran's brutal Evin Prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his alleged involvement in the early 2000s with the Christian house church movement.
Wolf made the following statement about Abedini's conviction:
"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."
Wolf has long-advocated for religious freedom around the globe. Most recently, he and 36 of his colleagues on January 15 wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to bring attention to this case. Earlier this month, he reintroduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 301) calling for the creation of a Special Envoy at the State Department charged with advocating for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. This legislation lists Iran, along with Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan as priority countries.