US officials call for Iran to release Iranian-American pastor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is denouncing Iran's imprisonment and prosecution of an Iranian-American Christian.

Katrina Lantos Swett says Pastor Saeed Abedini (sah-EED' ah-beh-DEE'-nee), who became a U.S. citizen in 2010, was arrested while visiting Iran in September and faces trial Monday on what are believed to be trumped-up charges for which he could be executed.

Lantos Swett says Iran may actually be making an example of him for his contacts with the underground Christian church.

She calls it "sickening" how Iranian officials "toy with people's lives, sort of like a very vicious cat toying with its prey."

This week, 12 U.S Senators and 37 House members sent letters urging Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to take a more active role in seeking Abedini's release. The Senate letter says, "We should not stand idly by while the Iranian regime arbitrarily persecutes a U.S. citizen who has committed no crime."

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