- (Photo: aclj.org)
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has launched the largest campaign in its history with aims of sending thousands of letters each week to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, petitioning for U.S. Pastor Saeed Adedini, who has been imprisoned for 52 weeks.
"Using a brand-new website that raises awareness for the persecuted church and gives a voice to the voiceless, we're asking you to write a letter to President Hassan Rouhani asking that he free Pastor Saeed," ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said in a letter to supporters on Monday.
"We've written text you can use, or you can customize to send your own message, but our goal is simple: 52,000 letters asking President Rouhani to save Saeed."
Abedini has been in Evin Prison in Tehran since his arrest last year, and was later sentenced to eight years in jail, supposedly for endangering national security. The ACLJ, which represents his wife, Naghmeh, and their two young children in the U.S., says that Iran has targeted the pastor for his Christian faith.
Despite a worldwide petition signed by close to 650,000 people, and top U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on Iran to release the pastor, who has suffered beatings and been placed in solitary confinement, the Islamic republic has refused to listen to pleas for his release. What is more, Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals declined in August to reduce Abedini's 8-year sentence, which was seen as a big blow for the pastor and his family.
Last week, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), co-chairman of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, issued a strong-worded statement directed at Iran warning that Abedini's treatment is a violation of human rights.
"Iran has once again demonstrated an utter disregard for fundamental human rights by continuing to insist that Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, be unjustly imprisoned in Iran," Franks declared. "I will continue to exhaust every available avenue to continue to advocate for Pastor Abedini's immediate and unconditional release."
Kerry, who has spoken out for the release of a number of US citizens being held in the Islamic country, said in a separate statement in August: "These men belong at home with those who love them and miss them."
The ACLJ letter, already signed by over 12,000 people, appeals respectfully and directly to Iranian President Rouhani, who won his country's general elections in June. At the time, ACLJ's International Legal Director Tiffany N. Barrans shared with The Christian Post that there is little hope that he can directly intervene in the case.
"Although one can hope that his promises of reform would include greater freedoms for the persecuted religious minorities in Iran, in reality, the man who controls the country and has set the harsh policy towards Christians remains unchanged – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei remains at the helm and he has set course for utter destruction of the Christian faith in Iran," Barrans told CP.
Still, the new campaign from the legal group is determined to keep Abedini in the spotlight until he is finally returned to his family. The ACLJ says it plans to send Rouhani 1,000 letters every single week until the U.S. pastor is freed.