- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2013

A Republican lawmaker expressed shock that State Department officials dodged a Friday hearing to discuss the ongoing saga of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini.

The failure of the State Department to make an appearance came just days after America’s leading representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council failed to raise the plight of the pastor during a meeting on Iran’s human rights history — and Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf finds the double-dodge more than coincidental.

“It is amazing,” Mr. Wolf, chairman of the Capitol Hill commission holding the hearing, told Fox News. “I can’t, almost, believe it.”

Friday’s hearing was intended to shed light on Iran’s persecution of religious minorities. Mr. Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, was supposed to speak.

Mr. Abedini renounced Islam and converted to Christianity in 2009. He became an American citizen by marriage a year later. Iran placed him under house arrest last summer, Fox News said.

Though the U.S. government has since called for his release, those calls could be louder, Mr. Wolf said. He refuted the State Department’s claim that it didn’t have anyone available to attend Friday’s hearing.

“The building is loaded with people,” he said. “The very fact that the United States government is not speaking out sends a very powerful message.”