U.S. Senators at a subcommittee hearing have been told that high-level U.S. attention to Iran's imprisonment of American Pastor Saeed Abedini is helping to keep him alive, The Associated Press reported.
Abedini has been in custody in Iran since September 2012 and was sentenced to eight years in prison for what was termed undermining state security.
At Wednesday's appropriations subcommittee hearing, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt expressed amazement that amid nuclear negotiations with Iran, "we couldn't get one person out of prison that nobody in this country believes should be there."
Nineteen Senate Republicans on Monday called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to demand the release of imprisoned Americans as part of the administration's talks with the Iranian regime’s officials.
"It is unacceptable that as the United States engages with Iran, human rights violations at the hands of Iranian officials go unchecked and Americans languish in Iranian jail cells," the senators, including potential 2016 candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said in a letter to Kerry.
"We urge you to discuss these imprisoned Americans and demand their unconditional release as you engage in discussion with Iranian officials."