Pictured above (top to bottom): Pastor Saeed Abedini, Robert Levinson and Amir Hekmati.
Along with many Americans, I have to wonder why Pastor Saeed Abedini and other Americans held in captivity in Iran were not part of any negotiations concerning that countries nuclear (weapons) program. Likewise, three men, believed held in the Islamic Republic of Iran, wonder why their freedom wasn’t part of any negotiations with that country.
The Obama administration announced what it characterized as a breakthrough deal with Iran on its nuclear weapons program, the culmination of multi-lateral negotiations on going for years. The State Department says talks in Geneva between Iran and six other world powers focused solely on the nuclear issue, leaving no room for appeals on behalf of Pastor Saeed, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson. This while recent reports claim the U.S.-Iran negotiaions that led to the Swiss talks included the release of an Iranian nuclear scientist arrested in 2011 for trying to aid his nation’s nuclear program by circumventing western sanctions.
State Department officials have maintained that the Obama administration has continued to press for the American trio’s freedom but Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice, who represents Abedini’s family, said freeing an Iranian prisoner while Americans languish in Tehran was wrong. “This is betrayal,” he said. “A betrayal because not only did they not get the release of the three Americans, but they said they are working on this ‘on the margins’. Our citizens are on the margins and then we are releasing an Iranian convicted on working on the nuclear issue.”
According to some reports, Atarodi was released in April. He is believed to be a vital player in Iran’s missile and nuclear programs, according to Israeli intelligence services. Atarodi has published over 30 technical articles relating to micro-electric engineering and even won awards for his research in the area. “These claims are untrue,” an Obama administration official stated in a news conference but it is not clear if the official was denying Atarodi’s release or just disputing the context.
“I think it’s a dire and desperate situation,” Sekulow said. “Our government is not taking the real human rights issues here seriously.” In September, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani denied any knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts.
While I can not understand how the release of these three Americans could not have been a part of the negotiations, U.S. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration is working to win the release of the three Americans, even if it was not a condition of the nuclear deal.
Abedini was arrested last they while in Iran where he is now imprisoned. Hekmati was visiting his grandmother in 2011 when he was charged with espionage and sentenced to death in 2012. Levinson was last seen in March of 2007 on Kish Island in Iran and is the longest-held hostage in U.S. history. Three years ago, the family received a hostage video in which a weak Levinson appears to be pleading for the White House to call for his release.
“The P5+1 talks focused exclusively on nuclear issues, but we have raised — repeatedly raised — his case and the cases of other detained American citizens including Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini in our bilateral discussions with Iran, including President Obama’s phone call with President Rouhani in September, so as recently as then, and we will continue to do so,” Psaki said.
I ask everyone to hold Pastor Saeed Abedini, Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati and their families up in prayer as our president and his administration appear to be more interested in political gains than the human rights of our very own citizens.