Historic U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal Ignores Plight of 4 Americans, Including Pastor Saeed Abedini: ‘It is Unconscionable’

( [email protected] ) Jul 15, 2015 01:13 PM EDT
The United States and Iran have announced a historic nuclear deal on Tuesday. However, that deal ignored the plight of four Americans in Iran; they include Robert Levinson, Pastor Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, and Amir Hekmati.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (seated) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as he prepares to leave the Austria Center in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015. Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal on Tuesday, capping more than a decade of on-off negotiations with an agreement that could potentially transform the Middle East, and which Israel called an "historic surrender". REUTERS/US State Department/Handout via Reuters

The United States and Iran have announced a historic nuclear deal on Tuesday. However, that deal ignored the plight of four Americans in Iran; they include Robert Levinson, Pastor Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, and Amir Hekmati.

According to a statement released by the American Center for Law & Justice, Abedini remains imprisoned in Iran due to his Christian faith. The chief council of ACLJ, Jay Sekulow, thought it was "unconscionable" for the Obama administration to sign a nuclear deal with Iran without considering Abedini and the other hostages.

"President Obama told the Abedini family face-to-face that he considered the release of Pastor Saeed a 'top priority,'" Sekulow said. "How could that be a 'top priority' when a deal is reached and Pastor Saeed is left behind? What happened today makes a bad deal even worse."

Sekulow vowed that the ACLJ would "focus our attention on convincing Congress to reject this deal." Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, also expressed disappointment in the outcome.

"I plead with Congress to ensure that my husband, an American citizen, is not left behind," Naghmeh said. "With the announcement of a deal and yet silence as to the fate of Saeed and the other Americans held hostage in Iran, their fate lies now in the hands of Congress. I plead with each member of Congress to review the deal with our family at the forefront of their thoughts."

Naghmeh contended that Congress had "the key to bringing my husband home, to returning the father to my children."

"My children have desperately missed the loving embrace of their father for the last three years of their lives," Naghmeh said. "They have grown up almost half of their lives without their father. Please help us ensure the remainder of their childhood includes both a mother and a father."

According to Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News, Abedini, a convert from Islam to Christianity, was convicted by an Iranian court in 2013 and sentenced to eight years in prison for "undermining national security" by establishing Christian home churches in that country. His wife went to Capitol Hill last month along with the families of other Americans held by Iran to plead for their safe return.

"I appreciate that they're being discussed on the sidelines, but they're still not home," Naghmeh said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "Where's the action? Where's the result?"

Chuck reported that of the four Americans in Iran, three were in prison and one had been declared missing. That missing person was retired FBI agent Levinson, who disappeared after a meeting on Kish Island in Iran back in 2007 while working for the CIA.

"This was a dangerous mission," attorney David McGee said. "Bob knew it was dangerous. And he got caught - and the U.S. left him there."

According to NBC News, Levinson has not been heard from in years. His family released photos and videos that were sent to them three years ago; one video showed Levinson begging for help.

"I have been held here for three and a half years," Levinson said in the video. "I am not in very good health. I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine."

The other American held in custody by Iran was Washington Post reporter Rezaian. His brother, Ali Rezaian, told NBC News that Jason was "distressed" after Iranian authorities charged him with espionage and other crimes.

"He has been in jail for 11 months, he's basically isolated, he sees only one other person. He doesn't get out very much," Ali said. "They started his trial five weeks ago but he has only had two days of trial, they won't tell him when the next day will be."

Ali added that his brother "knows that he is innocent."

"He knows that he has been there longer than any American journalist ever and there's just no justification for it," Ali said.

The fourth American imprisoned in Iran was Hekmati, a former Marine who has been in Iran since 2011; he was in the country visiting his grandmother for the first time. According to NBC News, Iranian authorities arrested and interrogated him on charges he was spying on behalf of the United States.

"His family told NBC News he has contracted persistent lung infections behind bars," Chuck wrote. "He is permitted short, once-daily phone calls to his parents."

According to Chuck, Hekmati was sentenced to death in January 2012, the first American in 33 years to receive the death penalty in Iran. However, a higher court overturned his death sentence.

NBC News reported that several Republican presidential candidates slammed the nuclear deal's failure to bring all four Americans home.

"I call on all congressional leaders and presidential candidates, including Secretary Clinton, to repudiate this agreement," Wisconsin Gov. Scott walker said in a statement.

"The nuclear agreement announced by the Obama administration today is a dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal," Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement.

"We have four prisoners over there," real estate mogul Donald Trump said. "We should have said, 'Let the prisoners out. They shouldn't be over there.'"

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