Kerry calls for release of US pastor in Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for the release of an American Christian pastor from an Iranian prison in the wake of a recent letter detailing physical abuse Saeed Abedini has suffered.

Abedini has been locked up in the Evin prison since last summer, after being sentenced to eight years for evangelizing and threatening Iran’s national security.

Earlier this week, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote to Kerry to express disappointment with the former senator’s lack of action on Abedini’s behalf.

Kerry said he was “deeply concerned,” “disturbed,” and “troubled” by Abedini’s reported treatment in the Iranian prison.

“I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire,” said Kerry in a statement late Friday. “Such mistreatment violates international norms as well as Iran’s own laws.

“I am also troubled by the lack of due process in Mr. Abedini’s case and Iran’s continued refusal to allow consular access by Swiss authorities, the U.S. protecting power in Iran.

“The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released.”

Kerry said he was encouraged by reports that Abedini had begun receiving treatment for his injuries from an outside specialist.

A recent letter from Abedini written to his wife on the margins of newspapers and obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice this week said that he had been abused by prison officials and had not been receiving treatment for his injuries because he was an “unclean” Christian.

Abedini said he had mistreated so badly that he didn’t recognize himself.

“[A]fter weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital,” he wrote to his wife. “I said, ‘hi,’ to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.”