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ICC Note: In announcing the release of an annual report on international religious freedom, John Kerry addressed the increasingly troubling issues of Christian persecution in the Middle East. Secretary of State Kerry highlighted Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran, a pastor arrested for his faith in 2012. Secretary Kerry called for his release and promised to continue to call for it until it is successful. While this statement is encouraging, it is far from enough to free Pastor Saeed Abedini. Continued support from the United States’ government is necessary to pressure Iran for his safe release back to the United States.

07/29/14 Iran (American Center for Law and Justice) – Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the plight of American Pastor Saeed Abedini today in his remarks presenting the State Department’s 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom.

In his remarks, Secretary Kerry stated:

In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs. We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it. And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Baha’is to Ahmadi Muslims.

So we have a long way to go to safeguard these rights. We also have a long way to go when governments use national security as an excuse to repress members of minority religious groups.

We are thankful for Secretary Kerry’s stated commitment to not just talk about Pastor Saeed’s freedom but in fact “work for it.”

The report itself, a yearly update for Congress on the state of religious freedom across the globe, also mentions Pastor Saeed in several places, explaining the excruciating ordeal that he is enduring:

Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, detained since September 2012, was sentenced in January to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs. Officials at Evin Prison reportedly subjected Abedini to physical and psychological abuse during his detention, and repeatedly denied him medical treatment and consular access. On November 3, authorities transferred Abedini to Rajai Shahr Prison, a facility reputed to be overcrowded and with insufficient medical care, placing him in a ward known to house violent offenders. Abedini reportedly remained in Rajai Shahr Prison at year’s end.

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