(Letter dated Feb 13, 2013)
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners to express our deep concern about the imprisonment and trial of American citizen Saeed Abedini, who was wrongfully detained in Iran and was recently convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
We understand that 12 Senators and 37 Representatives signed letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in mid-January, and that a new congressional letter is now being addressed to you. We join these members of Congress in urging you and the State Department to exhaust every possible option to ensure Mr. Abedini is fully and immediately released.
As members of Congress have indicated, it is incumbent on us to defend basic human rights and stand against persecution. Mr. Abedini has been traveling to Iran for the humanitarian purpose of opening an orphanage in Rasht, and on his most recent trip he was detained and subsequently tried and convicted of criminal charges relating to his Christian faith. He has suffered solitary confinement, beatings, and aggressive interrogations while being detained in the notorious Evin Prison.
Iran is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly recognizes the fundamental human right to choose one’s own religion and freedom from arbitrary detention. Yet Mr. Abedini was detained and then stood trial before Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. This judge is known as the “hanging judge” and has been sanctioned by the European Union for numerous human rights violations committed against activists who were tried following the 2009 Iranian election.
We thank you for statements you have made to condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and for your commitment to call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him. And we join members of Congress in respectfully requesting that you continue to use every diplomatic avenue possible to secure Mr. Abedini’s unconditional release.
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION
AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS (AIC)
CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY INTERNATIONAL (CSI-USA)
CHRISTIAN SOLIDARY WORLDWIDE (CSW-UK)
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY, NATIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE
HUMAN RIGHTS LAW FOUNDATION (HRLF)
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION & PUBLIC POLICY
INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN
INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ASSOCIATION
LAW AND LIBERTY TRUST
MIDDLE EAST CONCERN
NORTH AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ASSOCIATION (NARLA)
UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, GENERAL BOARD OF CHURCH AND SOCIETY
C. Naseer Ahmad
Stephen Baskerville, Professor of Government, Patrick Henry College
Ann Buwalda, Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign
Jeff King President International Christian Concern
Dr. Richard Land, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Brent McBurney, President & CEO, Advocates International
Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director, Religious Liberty Program, The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Greg Mitchell, President, The Mitchell Firm
Senge Sering, President, Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies (IGBS)
Anthony Vance, Director, Office of Public Affairs Baha’is of the United States