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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

August 29, 2013 - 7:26 am

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Iran last night to release U.S. citizens who have gone missing or are known to be detained there.

“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 a statement.

“Mr. Levinson went missing from Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007. Mr. Levinson is not only a husband, but a caring father to seven children. His family has endured with courage and quiet dignity the pain of spending so many important family milestones without him there. They shouldn’t have to endure additional worry about his whereabouts and well being. We call again on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to uphold its offer to help find Mr. Levinson and return him safely to his family.”

Last year, the FBI offered a $1 million reward for information on Levinson’s whereabouts. Just before Christmas, the family was resigned to start a White House petition but failed to cross the threshold of signatures needed for an administration response.

“The United States is also deeply concerned about the fate of dual U.S. citizens Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini. Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of Mr. Hekmati’s detention in Iran on false espionage charges. On September 26, Mr. Abedini will have spent a year in detention in Iran. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs,” Kerry continued.

A 32-year-old American citizen and Idaho resident who converted to Christianity as a teen, Abedini and his wife had been forced to flee Iran once before for starting a network of home churches in the Islamic Republic. He was arrested in 2009 on a visit back to Iran to see his family, warned not to evangelize, then was arrested again in July 2012 when he re-entered the country for humanitarian work. The pastor was thrown into solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison, and has suffered abuse both at the hands of his captors and from other inmates who self-identify as al-Qaeda. His appeal was rejected this week.

Hekmati, a 30-year-old Flagstaff, Ariz., native and Marine Corps veteran arrested and charged with spying in August 2011 while visiting relatives in the country. A year ago, after a televised coerced confession, Hekmati was found guilty of being “corrupt on Earth and an enemy of God” and sentenced to die. An appeals court overturned the verdict on the basis that the verdict was “not complete” and Hekmati was scheduled for retrial.

“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. “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.”

MORE: 5 Americans who need Washington’s help to come home

Bridget Johnson is a career 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 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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