When it came down to American Freedom… When it came down to the Freedom of Religion… When it came down to right and wrong… Secretary of State John Kerry… was AWOL!
There’s one thing that became very clear following Friday’s hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House: The State Department continues to do very little to come to the aid of a U.S. citizen – held hostage in an Iranian prison – beaten and tortured because of his Christian faith.
The State Department sent no one to the hearing. No one to stand-up for Pastor Saeed Abedini – an American – a U.S. citizen. No one to assure Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, that every effort is being made by our government to secure the release of her husband.
A State Department spokesperson told a reporter no one could attend the hearing because of “scheduling conflicts.” That is an unacceptable excuse – especially when the life of a U.S. citizen is at risk in one of Iran’s most deadly prisons. In fact, Pastor Saeed’s health is worsening, now suffering from internal bleeding at the hands of his captors. At the hearing, we made it very clear that this inaction – this lack of involvement – in inexcusable. Following the hearing, we attended a meeting at the State Department – and, once again, forcefully expressed our disappointment and concern that Pastor Saeed get the assistance and attention he deserves. We also told State Department officials at that meeting that we do want to work with them – we need them – and we are looking forward to an opportunity to work with them more directly on this critical case.
This week, we are calling on the State Department and Secretary Kerry to fully engage – to step up and pro-actively work for the release of Pastor Saeed. It’s time for Secretary Kerry to personally engage this case. We want him to issue a clear and direct statement as soon as possible – no later than Friday of this week. That gives Secretary Kerry one full week from the hearing to put together a sound strategy – and a public statement – condemning Iran and calling for the immediate release of this U.S. citizen. If that occurs, a powerful message will be sent – not only to Iran – but to the other nations around the globe that are waiting to see how the United States handles the wrongful imprisonment and torture of one of its citizens. If the State Department continues to refuse to fully engage – and there’s no statement issued by Secretary Kerry – we have no other option than to pursue further Congressional hearings which will have subpoena power to get to the bottom of the Obama State Department’s refusal to engage this case – to use the full resources of our government to seek the freedom of a U.S. citizen.
One of the most moving moments of the hearing on Friday came when Naghmeh displayed the American flag, which was flown over the Capitol, given to Pastor Saeed on the day he became a U.S. citizen. Naghmeh told the Commision, “I remember Saeed saying it was one of the best days of his life and he was so proud to be an American.”
Our government owes this U.S. citizen much more. Our Secretary of State must set an example. No U.S. citizen should be left to languish in one of Iran’s most deadly prisons. As ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow told the Commission, “he is us” – Pastor Saeed is a U.S. citizen who needs and deserves the full weight of the U.S. government – now – before it becomes too late. The hearing also made it clear that your voice is being heard. We were able to report to the Commission that more than 500,000 people had signed on to our petition to free Pastor Saeed. That number continues grow – now more than 537,000 have signed on. This is a critical week. If you haven’t done so, please add your name now. The State Department and Secretary of State Kerry need to understand – the imprisonment of a U.S. citizen – who is facing life-threatening treatment – is not something that we will be quiet about. We will continue to shine a bright media and public spotlight on our government. And we will hold Secretary Kerry accountable until Pastor Saeed is back home with his family in Idaho.