U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), Congressmen Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), along with more than eighty colleagues from the House and Senate, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Congresswoman Shea-Porter (D-NH), sent a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry and urged him to exhaust every possible option to secure U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini's release from Iran.
"The case of Saeed Abedini is one example of the continued, egregious violations of religious freedom in Iran, and he should be released immediately," said U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), author of the Lautenberg Amendment on refugees. "This case also shows why programs like the Lautenberg Amendment are critical for religious minorities in Iran fleeing persecution, and Congress must act to reauthorize the Amendment. As President Ahmadinejad maintains his oppressive rule in Iran, we must continue to provide religious minorities with a safe means of exit and access to refugee status in the United States."
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) continued, "The Iranian regime must immediately and unconditionally release Pastor Saeed. Iran's decision to sentence a pastor to eight years in prison simply for practicing his religion reflects the regime's flagrant disregard for basic human rights. As Americans, we cannot tolerate such violations of personal freedom, especially against our own citizens. I am proud to join my colleagues in sending a strong message of solidarity to Pastor Saeed and all Iranian dissidents."
According to U.S. Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), "The overwhelming bipartisanship of our congressional letter to Secretary of State Kerry demonstrates the serious implications of Saeed Abedini's case in Iran and the need for swift action by our State Department. When a U.S. citizen is unjustly detained and imprisoned--particularly in Iran, a country with no respect for rule of law or fundamental human rights--the State Department should come vigorously to his or her defense. As Secretary Kerry assumes his new position at State Department, the Saeed Abedini case deserves his immediate and personal attention."
U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) stated, "Pastor Abedini's case exemplifies Iran's flagrant violation of human rights and religious freedom. We hope that this letter, with its deep support from all across America, will show Saeed Abedini that he is not alone and that we have not forgotten him."
"I am deeply dismayed and disturbed by the news from Iran that Pastor and American citizen Mr. Saeed Abedini has been sentenced by the Iranian government to eight years in prison for practicing the Christian faith," wrote U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "Pastor Abedini's case is symbolic of the gross injustice against all Christians in Iran today. I am encouraged that many of my colleagues feel the same way, as demonstrated by this letter but we need to add the voice of the President of the United States to the chorus of concern."
U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) said, "Religious freedom is one of the most fundamental rights any human being should have. Pastor Abedini's wrongful conviction and imprisonment is the latest example of Iran's continued blatant disregard for religious freedom and the rule of law. Pastor Abedini is an American citizen, who has committed his life to Christ, his country and his family--none of which are punishable offenses. I am proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to continue calling for swift action from the State Department under Secretary Kerry's leadership to bring Pastor Abedini home."
U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) concluded, "This letter informs both Secretary Kerry and the nation of Iran that the members of Congress, and the people we represent, refuse to silently accept this violation of human rights. We will continue to speak out until Pastor Saeed is free to come home to his two young children, his community of faith, and his country."
The letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry: