President Barack Obama invoked the spirit of the ancient spring festival of Nowruz to reiterate his commitment to bringing home three Americans who have been imprisoned in Iran, and one who disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island.
“It is time for reuniting and rejoicing with loved ones and sharing hopes for the new year,” said President Obama in a statement. “As families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those Americans who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones.”
Pastor Saeed Abedini has been detained in Iran since the summer of 2012. He is serving an eight year prison sentence on charges relating to his religious beliefs. “He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father,” said President Obama.
Amir Hekmati is a former U.S. marine who has been imprisoned in Iran for three and a half years and falsely charged with espionage. President Obama remarked that Mr. Hekmati’s father is gravely ill and that the family “has borne the pain of Amir’s absence for far too long.”
Jason Rezaian is a reporter for the Washington Post newspaper who had been credentialed by the Iranian government. He has been held unjustly in Iran for nearly eight months on vague charges. President Obama said, “It is especially painful that on a holiday centered on ridding one’s self of the difficulties of the past year, Jason’s mother and family will continue to carry the heavy burden of concern regarding Jason’s health and well-being into the new year.”
President Obama also noted that yet another anniversary has passed since former FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing on Iran’s Kish Island. “His family,” he said, “has now endured the hardship of his disappearance for over eight years.”
“At this time of renewal, compassion, and understanding,” said President Obama, “I reiterate my commitment to bringing our citizens home and call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian, and to work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson so that they all can be safely reunited with their families as soon as possible.”