U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is being urged by more than 80 Senators and Representatives to "exhaust every possible option" to try and secure the release of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who is currently being held in prison in Iran.
"This is a significant bi-partisan effort to secure the freedom of a U.S. citizen who faces incredible torture and life-threatening punishment in one of Iran's most brutal prisons – simply because of his Christian beliefs," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in a statement on Thursday.
"This letter from a politically broad spectrum of members of Congress underscores the real issue here: the U.S. government must protect its citizens and exercise every diplomatic tool available to secure the freedom of Pastor Saeed. We are very grateful for this Congressional support and urge Secretary Kerry to act without delay. Pastor Saeed's life hangs in the balance. Secretary Kerry's personal involvement in this case is critical to securing the freedom of this American."
Sekulow refers to the bipartisan Congressional call signed by more than 80 Senators and House Reps who have been made aware of Pastor Abedini's plight and have called upon the State Department to fight for the Iranian-born pastor's release.
Abedini is currently serving an eight year sentence in Evin Prison in Tehran, after an Iranian court convicted him of endangering national security and arresting him in September 2012. In reality, ACLJ says that the pastor had been spending his time since converting to Christianity in 2000 by making trips back and forth between Iran and America, where his wife and two children live, helping underground Christian churches and building an orphanage for underprivileged children.
The law organization says that Abedini was convicted after a quick "sham" trial where his lawyer was barely allowed 24 hours to prepare the defense with his client.
"When I heard this from my husband, I cried. It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten," Naghmeh Abedini shared about her last conversation with her husband earlier in February, who has said he is being beaten and mistreated behind bars.
"Every American citizen traveling or living abroad should have the assurance that the U.S. government will come vigorously to his or her defense if they are unjustly detained or imprisoned," reads the letter, signed by the U.S. lawmakers.
"We respectfully request that you continue to use every diplomatic avenue possible, in cooperation with our allies and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to secure Mr. Abedini's unconditional release and personally and publicly condemn his arbitrary detention in a statement."
Earlier this week, the ACLJ's affiliate in Europe, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), filed a statement in Strasbourg, France, asking the U.N. Human Rights Council to demand for the release of the pastor.
The ACLJ are still encouraging people to sign a petition in support of Pastor Abedini, to remind him that he is not alone in this long and uncertain struggle.