US, German Reps Call Attention to Pastor Saeed Abedini at UN Meeting

U.S. and German representatives drew attention to the plight of American pastor Saeed Abedini at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, saying his human rights are being violated as he remains imprisoned in Iran.

"We take this opportunity to call once again for the release of dual U.S.-Iranian citizen Saeed Abedini, who is currently being held in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Paula Schriefer, who led the U.S. delegation, on Monday.

Schriefer noted that religious minorities in Iran, including non-Shia Muslims and Baha'is, are subject to harsh treatments. And despite Iran's change in administration, with the election of President Hassan Rouhani, there has been no significant improvement to the country's human rights situation, she added.

"While Iran has begun to shift its rhetoric on human rights, the United States remains deeply concerned that Iran continues to suppress free expression and civil society, harass members of its ethnic and religious minority populations, and imprison human rights defenders and journalists for political purposes," Schriefer stated.

During the U.N. meeting, Gudrun Masloch, Germany's first secretary of the Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva, also mentioned Abedini by name, calling attention to his need for critical medical treatment which is being denied by Iranian authorities.

The Human Rights Council heard a report from the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, on Monday. Shaheed, who said he still has not been allowed to visit Iran, reported that deep reform has yet to take place to improve the human rights situation. Hundreds of individuals reportedly remained in some form of confinement for exercising their fundamental rights, including journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, Baha'i, Sunni Muslims, Christians and Dervish Muslims, he said, according to a press release.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini's wife Naghmeh and their two children in the U.S., said that it welcomed the statements by the U.S. State Department and the German government and their efforts to continue pressuring the Islamic country to release the imprisoned pastor.

"We are hopeful that persistent pressure from both the U.S. State Department and the international community will lead to Pastor Saeed's release. We cannot be silent as one of our own – a U.S. citizen – suffers for his faith, wrongfully imprisoned in Iran," the law group wrote.

The U.S. pastor was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran following his arrest in July 2012 while working on an orphanage project. The ACLJ and Naghmeh Abedini have led global campaigns calling for his release, arguing that he is being punished because of his Christian faith.

Last week, Saeed Abedini was pinned down and shackled by Iranian guards at a hospital, and was once again denied much needed surgery that he had been promised. Abedini is in need of an operation to address chronic pain in his stomach area, which is the result of numerous prison beatings.

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