May 11, 2015
WASHINGTON D.C. – As part of his continued efforts to fight for the release of four American citizens wrongfully held as prisoners in Iran, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) today praised the Senate passage of a concurrent resolution that he co-sponsored. The resolution states that it is U.S. policy that Iran should immediately release the three U.S. citizens detained in Iran, Pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, as well as cooperate in locating the fourth, former FBI official Robert Levinson.
On April 27, 2015, Blunt filed an amendment to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to make any agreement with Iran contingent upon the four American prisoners’ release; however, President Barack Obama issued a veto threat on his amendment the following week.
“It is simply unacceptable that after two years of U.S.-Iran negotiations, Iranian officials continue to hold four American citizens as prisoner without any real cause,” Blunt said. “As I’ve long said, we should do everything we can to bring these American citizens home, and this vote demonstrates that my colleagues agree. I believe President Obama can and must do more to secure the release of these American prisoners from Iran, and I won’t stop fighting until we bring them home.”
The legislation, which was introduced by U.S. Senator Jim Risch (Idaho), directs the Obama Administration to use all diplomatic tools at its disposal to seek the release of the American citizens in Iran, including refusal to lift sanctions without securing the prisoners’ release.
Background on Blunt’s Efforts to Release American Prisoners Held in Iran:
During a recent Senate Republican Leadership Stakeout, Blunt spoke about his amendment to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and his efforts to bring these Americans home.
On March 12, 2015, Blunt spoke at a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs hearing regarding President 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.