U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement on August 28 calling on the government of Iran to aid in the return of three U.S. citizens to their families, including Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been held in an Iranian prison for nearly a year. The request came the same week that an Iranian court denied an appeal by Abedini to revisit his conviction and eight-year sentence for supposedly threatening Iran's national security because of his humanitarian work and leadership role in the nation's underground church movement.
“The United States respectfully asks the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to work cooperatively with us in our efforts to help U.S. citizens Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini to return to their families after lengthy detentions,” Kerry said in the statement.
Levinson has been missing in Iran since 2007, and Hekmati has been held by Iran on espionage charges for the past two years. Kerry appealed to new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (shown on right), whose political posture has suggested a more open attitude by Iran's government in international relations. “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,” said Kerry's statement. “We urge the Iranian Government to release Mr. Hekmati and Mr. Abedini and to help us locate Mr. Levinson so that they may be reunited with their families as safely and as soon as possible. These men belong at home with those who love them and miss them."
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, has expressed frustration over the Obama administration's lack of involvement in securing her husband's release.
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Photo of Hassan Rouhani: AP Images