Fox News commentator Todd Starnes claimed today in a Fox Nation blog post entitled “Why Won’t Obama Call for Iran to Release American Pastor?” that the Obama administration “has not done anything to help free” Rev. Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who is being held in a notorious Iranian prison:
The wife of an American pastor held captive in an Iranian prison for nearly a year said the Obama Administration has not done anything to help free her husband – and the law firm representing the family believes it’s because the pastor is a Christian who converted from Islam.
However, this contrasts with what Fox News reported in January of this year:
Although the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement Sunday the administration is "deeply disappointed that Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs.
"We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini."
Meehan added that the State Department remains in close contact with Abedini.
The State Department also called for Abedini's release.
"Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day (January 21) to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini's trial," spokesman Darby Holladay said in a statement.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in a January press conference that Iran should “release” the pastor and condemned “Iran’s continued violation of the universal rights of freedom of religion.”
We remain very concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who is detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day to present his defense. And we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and the transparency of his trial. We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal rights of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and to release him. We are in close contact with his family as well and we’re actively engaged in the case.
Nuland reiterated the call for his release just last week:
[W]e remain concerned about Mr. Abedini. We raise this at regular intervals. We also remain deeply concerned that the Iranians have not yet granted access to him by our Swiss protecting power. We continue to believe he should be released immediately.
Brian Thorn of Media Matters points out that the American Center for Law and Justice’s Jordan Sekulow praised the White House and the State Deparmtnet for their “strong statements” to “secure the freedom of Pastor Saeed.” “Thanks to the State Department and White House for their statements today and involvement to secure Pastor Saeed’s freedom,” Sekulow said.
Well, I can tell you a couple of things. One, that we remain concerned about Saeed Abedini, who is, as you mentioned, detained in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. The State Department is in close contact with his family and is actively engaged on this case. As you know, Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day to present his defense. And earlier this week, Mr. Abedini was not allowed to attend his own trial, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of that trial. We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom or religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini.