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Bridget Johnson


January 29, 2013 - 6:02 am

The White House is “deeply disappointed” in an eight-year prison sentence for an American citizen and Christian pastor charged with evangelizing in Iran.

Saeed Abedini could have faced a death sentence, but will spend his time in the notoriously brutal Evin prison, which has special sections for political and religious dissidents, journalists, bloggers, and others accused of trying to undermine the Islamic Republic.

“Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of his trial,” press secretary Jay Carney said at yesterday’s briefing.

“We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini. As you know, the State Department is in close contact with the Abedini family and is actively engaged on this case,” he continued. “…We obviously have a variety of means, including this podium, to express our views on matters like this, and we are very concerned about this and very concerned about the process that led to this.”

Iran began the trial for Abedini, a 32-year-old Idaho resident who converted to Christianity as a teen, on Obama’s inauguration day. Eleven Republican senators wrote Clinton this month to implore that she “exhaust all efforts” and “not stand idly by while the Iranian regime arbitrarily persecutes a U.S. citizen who has committed no crime.”

“We remain deeply concerned about the fairness and the transparency of his trial,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday. “We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal rights of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and to release him.”

“The trial and conviction of Pastor Abedini represent an outrageous miscarriage of justice and  yet one more damning piece of evidence pointing to the rampant denial of religious freedom and the absence of any semblance of rule of law in Iran, ” said Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“Mr. Abedini’s detention and sentence demonstrate the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for the most fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). “I fully support the State Department’s condemnation of this sentencing and call for the release of this American pastor.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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