Secretary of State John Kerry has not responded to a congressional letter asking that he call for the release of Saeed Abedini, an American pastor being tortured by Iranian jailers who want to force him to renounce his Christianity.
“As an American citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights,” a bipartisan group of over 80 senators and House members, led by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrote in the letter on February 12th. “We respectfully request that you continue to use every diplomatic avenue possible . . . to secure Mr. Abedini’s unconditional release and that you personally and publicly condemn his arbitrary detainment in a statement.”
Kerry has not done so, though he gave a wide-ranging foreign policy speech at the University of Virginia on Wednesday, which he opened by complaining that the State Department needs more federal funding in order to “stand up for our American values” abroad. A comment about Abedini’s plight, of course, would not have cost Kerry a dime.
Earlier this week, Abedini released a letter to his extended family members in Iran explaining that “various (bullying) groups, the psychological warfare, a year of not seeing my family, physical violence, actions committed to humiliate me, insults, being mocked, being confronted with extremists in the prison who create another prison within the prison walls, and the death threats” he is receiving in jail have weakened him physically.
There is a way for him to make the torture stop. “They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ,” Abedini wrote. “But they will never get this from me.”
A Republican aide said that the State Department has not responded to the congressional letter, nor has the department given Congress information about how the United States is working with European governments to increase pressure on Iran.“This new letter from Pastor Saeed could not be more clear or direct – he continues to face life-threatening abuse simply because of his religious beliefs,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh (who lives in Idaho with their children). “The letter also underscores the need to move quickly,” Sekulow continued in his statement. “A U.S. citizen is in failing health from beatings and abuse – a menacing scenario that should command the full attention and engagement of the U.S. government. It’s our hope that Secretary Kerry will act without delay – doing all that can be done by the State Department to save this U.S. citizen.” Kerry did provide Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., with a written statement condemning Abedini’s imprisonment during his confirmation hearing. A Republican aide explained that a statement from a sitting Secretary of State would make it easier to convince European governments to intercede with Iran on behalf of Abedini. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.