May 07, 2015
WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) released the following statement today regarding his efforts to insist that the Obama Administration make any agreement with Iran contingent upon the release of four innocent American prisoners, including Pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, and former FBI official Robert Levinson:
“It is outrageous that after two years of negotiations, Iranian officials continue to hold four American citizens as prisoner without any real cause. The United States must insist that Iran release these Americans as a condition of any agreement. You would think if you were negotiating something as significant as preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon, the very least you could do is release these prisoners. The president is committed to blocking my recent efforts, but I’ll keep fighting until these four innocent Americans are released unconditionally and brought home safely to the United States where they belong.”
Reports this week revealed that Hekmati, the former U.S. Marine incarcerated in Iran for more than three years, “has begun a hunger strike to protest his captivity and the conditions under which he is being held.”
Background on Blunt’s Efforts to Release American Prisoners Held in Iran:
On April 27, 2015, Blunt filed an amendment to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 to make any agreement with Iran contingent upon the four American prisoners’ release; however, the president issued a veto threat on his amendment last week. Blunt recently spoke about his efforts to bring these Americans home during the Senate Republican Leadership Stakeout.
On March 12, 2015, Blunt spoke at a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs hearing regarding President Barack Obama’s need to appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom among religious minorities in the Middle East. Specifically, Blunt asked the Chief Counsel at American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Jay Sekulow, about the status of Pastor Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran for his faith. Blunt has long been vocal in calling for Abedini’s release.
Last year, Blunt introduced and Congress passed the bipartisan Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, which encouraged President Obama to appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom in the Middle East. Eight months after the bill was signed into law, the president has not appointed a special envoy.
Blunt serves as a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense; the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.