Iran’s Persecution of Pastor Abedini Worsensby Representative Christopher H. Smith
Posted on 2013-12-16
of new jersey
in the house of representatives
Monday, December 16, 2013
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, at our full committee hearing
on Tuesday, December 10, I asked Secretary of State Kerry whether he
had raised Pastor Saeed Abedini's release during the Iranian nuclear
talks. I read him the following advance excerpt of the testimony that
Naghmeh Abedini--wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini who remains imprisoned
and subject to torture in Iran--would offer on Thursday, December 12.
``While I am thankful
for President Obama's willingness to express concern about my husband
and the other imprisoned Americans in Iran during his recent phone
conversation with Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, I was
devastated to learn that the Administration didn't even ask for my
husband's release when directly seated across the table from the
leaders of the government that holds him captive. My husband is
suffering because he is a Christian. He is suffering because he is an
American. Yet, his own government at least the Executive and diplomatic
representatives has abandoned him. Don't we owe it to him as a nation
to stand up for his human rights, for his freedom?''
Secretary Kerry acknowledged that he had not done so--confirming the
awful report that Naghmeh had already heard.
Pastor Abedini remains imprisoned in Iran, sharing a cell with violent criminals who have more than once surrounded Pastor Abedini as he tried to sleep, wielding knives and threatening his life.
Saeed Abedini is an American citizen. He went to Iran last year to build an orphanage for Iranian children. He had been arrested in Iran before, but released and told he could enter and exit the country for humanitarian aid work if he agreed to cease pastoring house churches.
As Pastor Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, testified last week, he accepted that proposal--but Iran did not uphold its end of the agreement.
Abedini was arrested in July 2012, imprisoned, and tried for sharing his religious beliefs and thereby supposedly undermining the security of Iran.
He was denied contact with his attorney until just before the trial. The trial was not public, and he and his attorney were barred from participating in key portions of the trial--following which a judge sentenced him to 8 years in prison. His appeals have been denied.
In prison, he has been repeatedly beaten, denied medical care, and held in solitary confinement. While nuclear talks played out on the world stage--Iran moved Pastor Abedini to a prison notorious for housing the worst criminals in Iran, Rajai Shahr.
The very fact that Pastor Abedini was moved to a dangerous prison in the middle of negotiations confirms that the Iranians recognized him as a potential factor in the negotiations. Since August of 2012, the United States has reportedly released four Iranians, including most recently a high-ranking scientist, who were imprisoned in the U.S. for sanctions violations.
Speaking for myself, I question whether these releases are unrelated to the nuclear talks.
Yet American citizen Saeed Abedini remains in a hell-hole prison in Iran.
The U.S. government must not waste another opportunity to secure the release of Pastor Abedini--his case needs to be front and center in the next round of U.S.-Iranian negotiations. Time is running out. Naghmeh, Rebecca, and Jacob need their husband and father home.