WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has voted unanimously to pass a resolution urging the Obama administration to do more to free an American pastor imprisoned in Iran, as well as all Americans incarcerated in the country.
The resolution was presented by Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the home state of Saeed Abedini, who has been behind bars in Iran since 2012 and ordered to deny his Christian faith.
“Iran thinks it elevates its position in the world because it does these kind of things. It does not,” Risch said. “Certainly it shows toughness, but a barbarian type of toughness that the world is not impressed with at all.”
“It is only right that the president should ensure Iran frees Pastor Abedini and the other Americans they have held captive for too many years before the United States provides any sanctions relief,” he stated.
As previously reported, Abedini, a former Iranian Muslim turned Christian, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and two children to find religious freedom after facing conflict with authorities for planting house churches in the county. In 2012, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents—and was about to return to the states—when he was taken into custody.
Abedini was later charged with threatening the national security of Iran, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he has spent the past two years behind bars.
In November 2013, Abedini was transported to Rajai Shahr Prison, which was believed to pose an even greater threat to Abedini’s health and safety. Last May, while obtaining treatment at a local hospital for injuries sustained from beatings, he was likewise beaten and returned to prison.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, requested a face-to-face meeting with Barack Obama in January as he was scheduled to speak at an area university. She later told reporters that Obama advised her that “getting Saeed out is a top priority and he is working very hard to get Saeed home back to our family.”
But as Abedini remains behind bars along with Americans Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian , members of Congress urged the Obama administration to use “all diplomatic means” possible to secure their release.
“Saeed Abedini has reportedly been held prisoner for what would appear to be the supposed ‘crime’ of attempting to build and operate an orphanage,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated during a speech on the Senate floor. “Beaten, denied access to medical care, and locked away in solitary confinement—that’s apparently how the Iranian regime deals with those who dare to show love and compassion to others.”
“I think we’d all agree that, at the very least, the American government should not be rewarding Iran for its disgraceful human rights abuses, that we should not be granting Iran the funding to pursue its nuclear weapons program and terrorist proxies while this exploitation continues,” he said.
The resolution passed unanimously 90-0 on Monday.