USA (MNN) — After weeks of pressure, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for the release of an Iranian-American minister from a Tehran prison: a welcome step for advocates who had accused the State Department of being "AWOL" on the case.
"I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," Kerry said in a prepared statement.
He continued, "I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire."
Kerry said such treatment violates "international norms" and Iran's laws.
"The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released," Kerry concluded.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing Abedini's wife in the case. They welcome Kerry's involvement saying it has been the most aggressive action yet on behalf of Abedini.
The government has been under fire when the State Department failed to send a representative to a March 15 hearing on Capitol Hill on religious freedom issues in Iran. Naghmeh Abedini, who lives with her two children in Idaho, met with State officials after the hearing.
She says, "I am hopeful that this will put more pressure on the Iranian government to act and free Saeed so he can return to our family in the United States," responding to Kerry's remarks.
ACLJ received a letter written by Saeed Abedini, 32, in which he spoke of being beaten and housed in a "dark room void of any natural sunlight."
"I did not recognize myself" when he looked in a mirror after being beaten, Abedini said. "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."
The ACLJ said his family received the letter, written on scraps of newspaper, on March 21.
The day before Kerry's statement, Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, called for Iran to release Abedini and "and others who are unjustly imprisoned."