Saeed Abedini's children in tearful video appeal to President Obama
'Please help bring our daddy home...'
A video was published last week in which the children of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini ask President Barack Obama to help bring their father home from Iran.
Abedini has been held in captivity since September 2012 for allegedly proselytising. In the video, Rebekka, 8, and Jacob, 6, plead with the President to secure his release.
"I miss him so much," Rebekka said.
"I want my daddy to bring me to Disneyland for my birthday," Jacob adds.
"Please help bring him home. Why does our daddy need to be in prison for loving Jesus?" Rebekka asked.
Abedini, who became a Christian in 2000, maintains that he travelled to his native country to help build a state-run orphanage. He has reportedly been beaten by inmates and guards while incarcerated, and was temporarily transferred to a hospital after suffering internal injuries from the assaults. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2013.
The State Department's 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom – released last month – highlighted cases of injustice across the globe, but Secretary of State John Kerry placed special emphasis on Pastor Abedini during his presentation of the document.
"In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned," Kerry said. "The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs.
"We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it."
The report described what government interventions have been made on Abedini's behalf.
"The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore has limited opportunity to directly raise concerns with the government over its religious freedom abuses and restrictions," it read.
"On several occasions, however, senior U.S. government officials, including the President and the Secretary of State, raised directly with their Iranian counterparts the case of Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, who is being held on charges related to his religious beliefs, and called for his release.
"The Department of State also publicly called for the release of Mr. Abedini and other prisoners held on religious grounds."
For Abedini's wife and children, the state department's efforts are for naught unless their husband and father is brought home.
"My heart cries because it misses daddy," Jacob said.
Watch their video appeal below: