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ICC Note: Congressman Frank Wolf and others expressed their disappointment this morning on learning that the State Department will not bother to attend a Congressional hearing on the case of Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned in Iran for working with the underground church. According to Representative Wolf, the lack of a State Department presence indicates an inherent bias and lack of interest in religious freedom issues on behalf of the nation’s foreign policy bureaucracy. 
3/15/2013 United States (Fox News) – The State Department is ducking a hearing Friday that will focus on the case of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini, just days after the leading U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council declined to specifically address the pastor’s case during a meeting on Iran’s human rights record.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the Capitol Hill commission holding the hearing, slammed the Obama administration for turning down the invitation to testify.
“It is amazing,” Wolf told “I can’t, almost, believe it.”
The hearing will focus on the plight of religious minorities in Iran. Slated to testify are the group representing the Abedini family in the U.S. as well as Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission reached out to the State Department last Friday in a bid to bring in a State Department witness to speak on the lead-off panel.
A Wolf aide said despite repeated attempts they didn’t hear back from the department until Thursday, when the department said no one was available.
Wolf voiced skepticism at the excuse. “The building is loaded with people,” he said of the State Department.
“The very fact that the United States government is not speaking out sends a very powerful message,” Wolf said.
Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010 when he married his American wife. The Iranian government does not recognize his American citizenship, though it had enabled him to travel freely between both countries until this past summer, when he was pulled off a bus and placed under house arrest, according to his supporters.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice which represents the family of the pastor, called the State Department’s decision not to attend “extremely troubling and offensive to the many who face life-threatening abuse at the hands of the Iranian government.”
“The State Department’s decision to snub this commission cannot be seen as anything less than a wanton disregard to stand up and speak out for those who cannot,” he said in a statement.

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