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The European Parliament passed a resolution Friday calling for Iran to release Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in the country for over a year for his Christian faith.
The American Center for Law and Justice has launched the largest campaign in its history to have Abedini released by sending thousands of letters to Iran's president Hassan Rouhani. The legal group announced Friday that in addition to this campaign, it has also successfully convinced members of the European Parliament to issue a resolution requesting Abedini's release. This effort was championed both by the ACLJ and its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice.
The resolution states that the European Parliament "[i]s deeply concerned about the fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for over a year and was sentenced to eight years of prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," according to a press release composed by the ACLJ's Executive Director Jordan Sekulow.
The press release also states that the fate of Pastor Abedini is of great concern to members of the European Parliament, and the resolution reportedly has broad cross-party support. "The fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran is also a matter of deep concern to MEPs, who called on the government to exonerate and release him immediately."
The resolution went on to call on the Middle Eastern country to ensure the right to religious freedom for all of its citizens, as well as the right for one to change their religion for whatever reason.
Several influential political and religious figures have called for Abedini's release in recent months. In late September, President Barack Obama spoke with President Rouhani regarding Abedini's imprisonment, expressing his concern that the pastor has been held for over a year for his religious beliefs. Additionally, renowned evangelical leader Billy Graham addressed a letter to President Rouhani requesting Abedini's release.
Graham wrote that he believed releasing Abedini would "have a positive impact in our nation, and might well be perceived by our leadership as a significant step in reducing tensions."
Abedini marked his one-year anniversary at Evin Prison in Tehran in late September. The pastor was arrested in 2012 and later sentenced to eight years imprisonment for allegedly threatening national security. His wife Naghmeh, and two children live in the U.S. and are being legally represented by the ACLJ.
The ACLJ has continued to assert that Abedini is being punished for his Christian faith, and has sent numerous petitions to the country signed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world calling for Abedini's release. The ACLJ said in early October that although it remains cautiously optimistic of the recent international attention brought to Abedini's case, the real victory will come when the Christian pastor is released and reunited with his family.
"Now is a critical time to act for Pastor Saeed as his case has been raised to the highest levels of both the U.S. and Iranian governments," the ACLJ said at the time, as previously reported by The Christian Post. "The world is watching."