Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call on Secretary of State John Kerry to use the Geneva platform at which he will be opening negotiations with Iran to force the Iranian government to release an American Christian pastor imprisoned by the Islamic country.
Pastor Saeed Abedini is an American citizen who has been imprisoned for over a year for practicing his Christian faith. President Barack Obama raised the issue of Abedini in a late September phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but this week, according to Cruz’s office, Abedini was “suddenly and without explanation transferred from Iran’s Evin prison to the even more brutal Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, which houses violent criminals on death row and is infamous for abusing political prisoners.”
Cruz and more than 20 of his colleagues, including two Democrats, have called on President Obama to order Secretary Kerry to press Iran on the issue in Geneva this week. “Secretary of State John Kerry will make an unplanned trip to Geneva Friday afternoon — where intense nuclear negotiations are underway — to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif,” NBC News reported this week. “Nuclear talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations — U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany — resumed in Geneva Thursday morning.”
In the letter to Obama, Cruz and his colleagues argued that it is “imperative for the United States government to speak out boldly on behalf of Pastor Saeed.” They argue the transfer to the prison in Karaj “has all too frequently been a de facto death sentence for political prisoners.”
In a statement accompanying the letter’s public release, Cruz argued that Obama has the power to fight for this pastor. “The President of the United States is in a unique position to focus international attention on the unjust and abusive detention of one of our citizens,” Cruz said. “There might also be an opportunity for administration officials participating in nuclear negotiations in Geneva this week to raise the issue directly with their Iranian counterparts. Time is of the essence given Pastor Saeed’s current predicament.”
Senators who signed the letter along with Cruz include: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL).