Activists scold U.S. over prison imprisoned in Iran

WASHINGTON — Religious freedom activists scolded the U.S. State Department for not appearing at a hearing Friday (March 15) on … Continued

WASHINGTON — Religious freedom activists scolded the U.S. State Department for not appearing at a hearing Friday (March 15) on Iran’s treatment of religious minorities, and called for greater government action to secure the release of people imprisoned there for their faith.

“The State Department is AWOL — they are absent without leave,” complained Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative law firm that represents the wife of Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American minister in Tehran’s Evin prison.

“They act as if they are embarrassed about Mr. Abedini’s faith.”

In comparison, he said, members of the European Union have called at the United Nations for Abedini’s release.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which held the hearing on Capitol Hill, criticized the State Department for “such a deafening and almost cowardly silence” about the case.

Evan Owen, a press officer with the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said department officials who focus on Iran had “scheduling conflicts” on Friday, but Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and other officials were scheduled to meet with Naghmeh Abedini Friday afternoon.

“We believe we are doing everything we can publicly and privately,” Owen said in an emailed response to a request for comment. “We work closely with Congress on all efforts to support religious freedom around the world and would be happy to discuss our efforts with them in the future.”

Naghmeh Abedini testified tearfully about having to explain to her children, who live with her in Idaho, why her husband is no longer calling them from Iran.

He was convicted in January of undermining Iran’s national security by working with house churches from 2000 to 2005 and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

“Saeed is not a political person,” she said in an interview after her testimony. “His passion is for Christ, for Jesus. So it’s ridiculous that it’s being related to national security.”

More than 515,000 people have signed an online ACLJ petition urging U.S. and international leaders to press for Abedini’s release.

Saeed Abedini’s plight bears echoes of Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who faced the death penalty after being accused of apostasy. He was released last year after U.S. leaders, from House Speaker John Boehner to megachurch pastor Rick Warren, rallied for his release.

“We certainly didn’t expect that it’d be harder to get help for Saeed Abedini, an American, from the American government than it would have for Youcef Nadarkahi, someone that they’ll likely never have a chance to meet,” said Jordan Sekulow, attorney for the Abedini family and executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

The hearing also addressed the mistreatment of other religious minorities in Iran, including Zoroastrians, Jews and Baha’is.

“In recent months, the Iranian government has managed to stoop to a new low by incarcerating young infants along with their Baha’i mothers,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Ken Bowers, secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, testified 436 Baha’is are awaiting trial, appeal or sentencing in Iran, up from 230 in January 2011.

In 2010, seven Baha’i leaders were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

About

Adelle M. Banks | Religion News Service Adelle M. Banks is a production editor and national correspondent at RNS.
  • SODDI

    They have a prison imprisoned? Boy those Iranians are tough.

    Maybe someone will bust that jail out of jail.

    Really – what WERE you really trying to say?

  • Khartet

    maybe the activist should be angry with iran. why is it the job of the US to support bahai in jail?

  • NCBoy1

    Is the use of the word “prison” in the headline a typo, or couldn’t you bring yourself to use the correct word, “pastor”?

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.