Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON D.C. (ANS) -- Secretary of State John Kerry's statement urging Iran to allow American Pastor Saeed Abedini to return to his family is an important diplomatic step in the effort for his freedom.
Saeed Abedini and his family
Jordan Sekulow in an article for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said, "We welcome this renewed involvement and effort initiated by Secretary Kerry to bring Pastor Saeed ... back home to his wife and young children."
Secretary Kerry's statement comes just days after the Iranian judiciary denied Abedini's appeal and affirmed his conviction and eight year prison sentence.
This statement from America's top diplomat reaffirms that despite the legal decision in Iran, the fight for Abedini's freedom is far from over.
It is a critical time to reengage Iran, to use all diplomatic avenues to secure his release.
The ACLJ said, "We urge the State Department to follow Secretary Kerry's lead and redouble all efforts for Pastor Saeed's freedom. As a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran merely because of his Christian faith, the U.S. Government - his government - should be doing everything in its power to bring this innocent man home to his family."
While Secretary Kerry's statement pu ts Abedini's case back in the diplomatic spotlight, that alone will not bring about his freedom.
The ACLJ added, "It is time for the President of the United States to engage his case. When a U.S. citizen - a Christian pastor - is illegally imprisoned in a foreign land, it should be a top priority of the President to bring him home."
The ACLJ said that Abedini's case deserves the attention and commitment of President Obama. who can raise it to the highest level of international diplomacy.
The ACLJ represents Abedini's wife Naghmeh. She said in the ACLJ story, "I am very thankful for the statement that Secretary of State John Kerry made to Iran regarding Saeed's immediate return to our family, and I hope that the State Department is truly willing explore all avenues to secure my husband's release."
She continued, "I still expect my president, President Obama, who has remained silent thus far, to speak out on this very critical human rights issue and let the Iranian government and the world know that re ligious freedom is still a top priority for our government. President Obama must demonstrate that America will not stay silent in the face of religious persecution, nor will it let an American citizen waste away in an Iranian prison simply because he chose to follow Jesus."
The ACLJ said now that Abedini's judicial appeals have been exhausted, the focus turns to the leadership of Iran. A decision for his release will come from the top.
Secretary Kerry noted the importance of reaching out directly to the new president of Iran. "President Rouhani has shared in his speeches and interviews over the past few months his hope and vision to improve the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran's relationship with the world."
The ACLJ said ti is is poised to launch a new effort focusing on international pressure on the leadership of Iran to release Abedini.
"We know the pressure of individuals around the world can make an incredible difference in these cases," the ACLJ commented, "just at it did in the case of Pastor Youcef who was freed nearly one year ago."
The second key landmark Secretary Kerry mentioned is the upcomingfirst anniversary of Abedini's imprisonment.
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, is organizing a nationwide prayer vigil for Abedini on. There are vigils scheduled in nearly every state in America and numerous foreign cities, with more being added daily.
The ACLJ said, "Because of the support of hundreds of thousands of people, Pastor Saeed's case has gained immense international media and diplomatic attention. It is time to focus the pressure on the Iranian regime to free this innocent U.S. citizen. He must be allowed to return home to his family that loves him and misses him."
For more information about participating in a vigil for Abedini, visit www.SaveSaeed.org.