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American Pastor Saeed Abedini, three other Americans, and nearly 90 Christians remain in prison even as the United States and other world leaders have reached an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding its nuclear program.
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that while the United States and world leaders have reached an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, the fate of American pastor Saeed Abedini, three other Americans, and the dozens of other Christians behind bars for their faith was not addressed.
"Saeed is not part of the deal," Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini told ICC shortly after the news broke about the agreement. There has not been "any assurance from State Department if his release has even been secured on the sidelines," she continued.
The deal reached in the early hours of Tuesday, July 14, 2015 comes at the end of a marathon 17 straight days of negotiating, and at the end of a lengthy process of more than 20 months of talks between Iran and the group known as the P5+1 (United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany).
"Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not -- a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon," President Barack Obamasaid from the White House,
"This deal is not built on trust. It's built on verification," Obama continued in the statement.
The main provisions of the deal provide the removal of economic sanctions in exchange for monitoring and limits placed on Iran's nuclear program to lengthen the time that it would take for Iran to create a nuclear weapon.
The deal has many vocal opponents in Congress, which has 60 days to review the deal.
"Sadly, the Administration just lit the fuse for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," Senator Ben Sasse (NE-R) said.
"President Obama has consistently negotiated from a position of weakness, giving concession after concession to a regime that has American blood on its hands, holds Americans hostage, and has consistently violated every agreement it ever signed," said Senator Marco Rubio (FL-R).
The American hostages held by Iran include former Marine Amir Hekmati, Washington Post report Jason Rezaian, held for one year this month, and Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has now been held for over 1,000 days.
Saeed was imprisoned on September 26, 2012. On the morning of January 27, 2013, Pastor Saeed stood before Judge Pir-Abassi in Tehran to receive his verdict from a show trial. He was convicted of "undermining national security" for his work among house churches in Iran from 2000 to 2005.
Naghmeh Abedini, Saeed's wife, appeared before the House of Foreign Affairs Committee in June, alongside of family members of the others held in Iran and pleaded for a greater effort to be made on behalf of her husband.
The absence of any progress on the release of Pastor Abedini and the other Americans, Iran's horrendous human rights record, especially regarding religious freedom, and its role as a leadingstate sponsor of terrorism, all raise serious concerns about this deal.
In response to the announcement speech from President Obama, Senator Ted Cruz (TX-R) said, "In his remarks this morning, the President glossed over the truth about Iran's world-leading state-sponsorship of terrorism that is violently destabilizing the region, and would grow more deadly should the Iranians get a nuclear bomb. He failed to mention American citizens, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, who continue to languish in Iranian prisons or Robert Levinson, who is still unaccounted for. For them, today is no 'opportunity to move in a new direction' as the President claimed. We owe it to our fellow Americans elevate, not ignore, their plight, to demand their swift and unconditional release by the implacably hostile regime that holds them. "
While President Obama has mentioned Saeed's case and, after years of delay, met with his wife during a trip to Idaho, no real progress has been made towards his release despite more than 20 months of negotiations between the two countries.
As of the beginning of 2015, Saeed was one of more than 90 Christians who were either currently in prison or awaiting trial for charges related to their faith, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
If the United States genuinely considers religious freedom an important tenant of our foreign policy, then President Obama should absolutely demand that Iran release an American citizen who has been imprisoned and sentenced to eight years in prison simply for his religious beliefs and take clear steps to promote religious freedom in all of its dealings with Iran.
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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