I’m frequently pondering what makes news and what doesn’t. Take a gander at this Google News page for information about Pastor Saeed Abedini.
It’s not that you can’t find plenty of news about this Iranian-born American Christian pastor who is currently imprisoned in Iran. It’s just intriguing where that news is. Abedini has been held in Iran since the summer of 2012 and imprisoned since September. Just a few weeks ago, he was reportedly sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening national security with his Christian activities.
Read all about it in the Baptist Press, World magazine, the Christian Post and Human Events. There are also items on FoxNews.com and a Washington Post sub-blog written by someone affiliated with “the Christian right.” So you see a pattern here.
It’s not that this case hasn’t been full of interesting twists and turns. You can read over at the Washington Examiner‘s editorial page about some odd ways the State Department reportedly was handling the case:
State Department officials have reportedly hesitated to intercede on behalf of an American citizen facing trial and perhaps execution in Iran due to his “Christian activities,” in part because Iran refuses to recognize the pastor’s U.S. citizenship.
“I recently learned our State Department informed Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, that it could do nothing for her husband’s case because Iran did not recognize his U.S. citizenship,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said in a statement to The Washington Examiner. Abedini’s attorney, Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice, told World the State Department listed that among the reasons it could not help Abedini.
“Let me be clear: under no circumstances should the U.S. State Department allow Iran to determine who is or isn’t a U.S. citizen and who the U.S. should protect,” Franks continued. “The State Department should be doing everything possible to ensure the safety of its citizens abroad and to defend this U.S. citizen who faces trial in Iran under the harsh Iranian judicial system.” The Iranian-born pastor married an American citizen and has a family in Idaho.
Over eighty Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both chambers of Congress wrote Secretary of State John Kerry asking that he reinforce the European diplomats trying to secure the release of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran on religious charges.
Pastor Saeed Abedini, who lives with his family in Idaho, was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of starting house churches in Iran after he traveled there to start an orphanage — a project the Iranian government encouraged.
“As an American citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrote in the letter on Tuesday.
They asked Kerry to issue his first statement on Abedini’s case as the United States’ top diplomat, because such a call for Abedini’s release would encourage the European governments that represent American interests to Iran to continue their efforts to negotiate for Abedini’s freedom. (The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, so nations such as the United Kingdom and Norway work on our behalf.) Kerry previously condemned the persecution of Abedini during his confirmation hearing.
“Every American citizen traveling or living abroad should have the assurance that the U.S. government will come vigorously to his or her defense if they are unjustly detained or imprisoned,” the bipartisan group – which includes Congressional Black Caucus chairman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who is also an ordained minister, and new Tea Party senators such as Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., — also wrote to Kerry.
Abedini’s family has been frustrated by the State Department’s reluctance to speak out on his behalf, at one point telling his wife, Naghmeh, that the U.S. government could not intervene because Iran refused to recognize his U.S. citizenship.
“We hope that this letter, with its deep support from all across America, will show Saeed Abedini that he is not alone and that we have not forgotten him,” Waxman said in a statement.
The editorial page at The Washington Examiner has covered the story. So have a few other outlets — particularly Christian ones.
But there’s the key question: Are only Christians interested that an American has been imprisoned in Iran after a sham trial? I imagine all human rights advocates are similarly interested. But even if it’s just Christians, isn’t their news of interest to major media outlets? This is big enough to be moved beyond the op-ed pages, no?