(CNSNews.com) – Newly confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Iran’s “continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion” and urged the release of an American Christian pastor imprisoned for his religious beliefs.
In a written response to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to questions during his confirmation hearing last week obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Kerry, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, said he is “deeply concerned” about Saeed Abedini, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his Christian faith on Sunday.
“The U.S. government remains concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who is detained in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs,” Kerry said in a written statement to Rubio who had asked if he would call for Abedini’s release.
“Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day on January 21, 2013, to present his defense,” Kerry said. “We remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini's trial.”
“I, along with the U.S. government, condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him,” Kerry said. “The Department of State is in close contact with the Abedini family and is actively engaged on this case.”
“This is a very positive sign that the incoming Secretary of State understands the important nature of the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran and now facing years of beatings and torture simply because of his faith,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ.
“By condemning Iran and calling for the release of Pastor Saeed, Sen. Kerry, who has now been confirmed and will take the oath of office soon, has the opportunity to lead a worldwide effort needed to free Pastor Saeed,” he said.
“It's our hope that the strong statements he put on paper during his confirmation process will be transformed into full engagement when he takes office,” Sekulow added.
“By speaking out in support of Pastor Saeed and by putting the full weight of the State Department behind this effort, soon-to-be Secretary of State Kerry can really make a tremendous difference in efforts to free this U.S. citizen - to bring him home to his wife and children in Idaho," said Sekulow.