The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) blasted the U.S. State Department for its lack of action in helping the case of American pastor Saeed Abedini, in particular for failing to appear at a congressional hearing on Friday.
The law group, who is representing Abedini's wife and two children back in the U.S., called out the State Department for an email it sent claiming, "We believe we are doing everything we can publicly and privately," when the department didn't even send a single person to the hearing on Friday.
Furthermore, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said that the State Department should be "utterly ashamed" of its "deafening and almost cowardly silence" over the pastor's case.
Abedini is currently serving an 8-year sentence in Tehran, Iran, after being convicted earlier this year of "endangering national security." ACLJ has actively campaigned on his behalf, arguing that the real reason behind his imprisonment was his work helping underground Christian churches in Iran, where Muslims are the majority, and for building an orphanage for children.
Although the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry had previously said that Pastor Abedini should be released by Iranian authorities, they failed to attend the congressional hearing on Friday, where the ACLJ brought up the pastor's case as well as the persecution many Christians in Muslim-dominated countries face.
"Saeed is a husband and amazing father," Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, told the U.S. Congress on Friday in an emotional speech. "The kids and I miss him terribly. Our kids hold onto the hope of seeing their daddy very soon."
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Co-Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) had been told that Secretary of State John Kerry's office would contact him after the hearing, but as of Tuesday morning the ACLJ said they have heard no news of such communication.
"The State Department refused to send anyone to the Congressional hearing to stand up for Pastor Saeed," the ACLJ stated.
"When the U.S. delegation at the United Nations had the opportunity to present a statement about the state of human rights in Iran, in response to a U.N. report that actually mentioned Pastor Saeed's plight, the U.S. State Department was silent about Pastor Saeed's case."
Congressman Franks also reminded fellow congressional leaders that the State Department is yet to respond to a bipartisan letter sent a month ago from more than 80 senators and representatives urging action on behalf of the Iranian-born pastor.
The law group, however, has expressed its thanks to the congressmen who did attend Friday's hearing and for their support in raising awareness for the imprisoned pastor.
In particular, they praised Chairman Wolf, as well as Reps. Franks, Chris Smith (R-NJ), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) for "being a tremendous voice for religious liberty around the world."
Pastor Abedini, who has remained strong in his Christian faith despite the beatings he has reportedly received inside the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, continues to receive support from concerned people worldwide, 540,000 of whom have signed an online petition calling for his release as of Tuesday morning.