- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2015

While President Obama and his aides hailed the nuclear deal struck with Iran as a diplomatic coup, the accord was silent on a major bilateral irritant between Washington and Tehran — the fate of three American prisoners being held in Iranian jails.

The three are journalist Jason Rezaian, who has written for the Washington Post and other publications; Christian pastor Saeed Abedini; and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati.

Secretary of State John Kerry, the lead U.S. negotiator at the marathon talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, insisted the U.S. side brings up the prisoners’ fate in every bilateral meeting with Iranian leaders.

He told reporters in Lausanne on Thursday the Obama administration would continue to press for the prisoners’ release, arguing the nuclear agreement may make the task easier.

“I’m not going to go into any details except to say to you that that conversation is continuing,” Mr. Kerry told reporters at a press availability Thursday. “We have a very specific process in place to try to deal with it, and we call on Iran again today, in light of [this agreement], to release these Americans and let them get home with their families.”

The American Center for Law and Justice has championed the case of Mr. Abedini, who has been held in Iran since 2012 on charges of organizing private Christian services in Iranian homes.

ACLJ said in a statement U.S. officials should press now even harder for his release.

“In the wake of President Obama’s announcement that a framework for a deal with Iran has been reached on nuclear negotiations, it is critical that our government use this unique opportunity – as our two nations continue to sit at the negotiating table over the next few weeks and months – to bring Pastor Saeed and the other wrongfully imprisoned Americans home to their families,” the statement said.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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