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Thursday
Feb142013

Congresswoman Shea-Porter - 80 Senators and Representatives Urge State Dept. to "Exhaust Every Option" in Release of Abedini

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Shea-Porter (D-NH),  Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), Co-Chairman of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), along with over eighty colleagues from the House and Senate, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), 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.

According to U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), “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.”

U.S. Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) said, "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.”

“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.”

“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) concluded, "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." 

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BACKGROUND:

 

The Honorable John F. Kerry, Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

February 12, 2013

 

Dear Secretary Kerry:

We write to thank you for your recent statement calling for the release of American citizen Saeed Abedini and we respectfully urge you to exhaust every possible option to secure Mr. Abedini’s immediate release.

We support your assessment that Mr. Abedini’s imprisonment represents a “violation of the universal right of freedom of religion.” We were also heartened by the State Department’s recent condemnation of the imprisonment and trial of Mr. Abedini.

While there are countless important issues that come before you, few are more sacred than defending the most fundamental human rights. It is even more incumbent upon us to stand against persecution when it is levied against our own citizens. 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.

Mr. Abedini was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on July 28, 2012, during a lawful entry into Iran. Mr. Abedini’s detention occurred during his ninth trip to Iran since 2009.  His frequent travel to Iran was for the humanitarian purpose of opening an orphanage in Rasht, Iran – an endeavor the Iranian Regime encouraged and supported.  During his most recent trip to Iran, Mr. Abedini’s passports were confiscated and he was forced to remain in Iran and face charges relating to his Christian faith.  On September 26, 2012, the Revolutionary Guard raided the home of Mr. Abedini’s parents and took Mr. Abedini into custody.  In the following months, Mr. Abedini experienced solitary confinement, beatings, and aggressive interrogations in Evin Prison.

On January 21, 2013, Mr. Abedini stood trial in front one of the most notorious judges in Iran: Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court.  Judge Pir-Abassi is known as the “hanging judge” and has been designated by the European Union for numerous violations committed during trials of human rights activists related to the 2009 Iranian elections.  It is deeply disturbing that the human rights of an American citizen were decided by an Iranian judge of this repute.

Every American citizen traveling or living abroad should have the assurance that the U.S. government will come vigorously to his or her defense if they are unjustly detained or imprisoned. We respectfully request that you continue to use every diplomatic avenue possible, in cooperation with our allies and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to secure Mr. Abedini’s unconditional release and personally and publically condemn his arbitrary detention in a statement.

 

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www.shea-porter.house.gov

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