Secretary of State John Kerry issued his first statement on Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned in Iran due to his Christianity, in which he condemning the Iranians for torturing Abedini and call for his release.
“I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs,” Kerry said in a statement. “I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire. Such mistreatment violates international norms as well as Iran’s own laws.”
Kerry has been under pressure from lawmakers to issue such a statement on Abedini’s case, which he had not previously done as head of the State Department.
“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, bicameral group of lawmakers led by Rep Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrote to Kerry on February 12.
Today’s statement comes hours after Abedini’s family released a letter in which he describes his physical condition after being beaten by his jailers.
“I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital,” Abedini wrote, per the American Center for Law and Justice. ” I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.” This is the second letter he has written of his torture.
A Hill aide explained to The Washington Examiner that Kerry’s statement as secretary is significant because it elevates Abedini’s case as a priority for the European countries that (unlike the United States) have diplomatic relations with Iran.
The Iranians have given no indication they will yield to such diplomacy. “I am also troubled by the lack of due process in Mr. Abedini’s case and Iran’s continued refusal to allow consular access by Swiss authorities, the U.S. protecting power in Iran,” Kerry also said. “I welcome reports that Mr. Abedini was examined by a physician and expect Iranian authorities to honor their commitment to allow Mr. Abedini to receive treatment for these injuries from a specialist outside the prison. The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released.”