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Cruz on Iranian Prisoner Abedini: Unconscionable that Top American Diplomats Did Not Mention His Name

December 5, 2013

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(202) 228-7561

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released the following statement on the latest negative reports concerning Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran:

"The recent press reports of the brutal treatment of Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran’s Rajai Shahr prison are deeply disturbing. But they are hardly surprising. Such abuse was inevitable after this American citizen, whose only crime is the peaceful practice of his Christian faith, was transferred to Iran’s equivalent of death row—not coincidentally on the 34th anniversary of the hostage crisis in Tehran, a day celebrated by Iranians as 'Death to America Day.'

"It is unconscionable that senior American diplomats, including the Secretary of State, who were conducting cordial negotiations with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva in the days after Pastor Saeed’s transfer, could not bring themselves to even mention his name, or those of fellow Americans detained in Iran, Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson. We are informed by administration officials that the issue of the American prisoners is 'on the margins' of more important diplomatic work, and that in any event, President Obama mentioned Abedini and Hekmati to Iranian President Hasan Rouhani when they spoke by telephone in September.

"The President’s action should not have been an end unto itself but rather the first step in a sustained effort to get these men home. Their unconditional release should be central, not peripheral, to any further agreement with Iran. If the United States was prepared to release an Iranian nuclear scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, as a good faith gesture paving the way to direct negotiations between our two nations for the first time in more than thirty years, the Iranians should have been required to do at least as much. We should have told them up front that their detention of our citizens and hostile rhetoric against the United States and our ally Israel is unacceptable, rather than engaging, without preconditions, in a negotiation that will provide the Iranian regime substantial sanction relief while doing nothing to curb—let alone end—its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

"A recent Pew poll reveals that American’s confidence in our position in the world is at an all-time low. For the first time, a majority of Americans—some 53%—believe our global role is declining. Showing clear and decisive leadership on the American prisoners of conscience unjustly detained in hostile nations, including Cuba and North Korea as well as Iran, would be a good place to start reversing this trend."

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