Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) joined a chorus of human rights and religious freedom advocates on Wednesday in calling for U.S. leaders to press for the release of an American pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday that Saeed Abedini, a U.S. pastor incarcerated for "undermining the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran" by preaching at Christian house churches, was moved to a more dangerous prison housing Iran’s most violent criminals. The Iranian regime typically sends murderers and rapists to the Rajai Shahr Prison, where they have been known to kill each other while guards look the other way.
Wolf called on President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry specifically to negotiate the release of Abedini with Iran’s leadership:
"I am deeply troubled by the latest news out of Iran regarding the fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, who has already spent more than a year behind bars because of his Christian faith," Wolf said in a press release. "With this development—a development without explanation or notice —Pastor Abedini’s life is further endangered. Time is of the essence."
"President Obama and Secretary Kerry must again engage at the highest levels and press in clear and unequivocal terms for the immediate and unconditional release of this innocent man," he continued. "Tehran brutally represses its own people, especially religious minorities including Christians and Baha’is. America always has an obligation to stand with those whose voices have been silenced wherever they may be. But that is perhaps no more true than when one of our own citizens is at the mercy of a murderous regime. Such is the case with Pastor Abedini."
Wolf co-authored a letter in March urging Kerry to make Abedini’s release and the broader issue of religious freedom a priority for the State Department. He has also introduced legislation that would create a special diplomatic envoy at the department for addressing persecution of religious minorities in South Central Asia and the Middle East, which passed overwhelmingly in the House in September.