U.S. Senate Unanimously Approves Resolution for Release of Pastor Saeed Abedini and Others in Iran

May 14, 2015 02:48 PM EDT

Saeed Abedini and family
Saeed Abedini's family met with President Obama to discuss the Christian pastor's release from Iran. Photo: Abedini Family/Facebook

The Senate has passed a resolution demanding Iran to release Pastor Saeed Abedini and three other Americans presently imprisoned in Iran.

In the middle of ongoing nuclear talks between U.S. and Iran, U.S. senators on Monday voted 90-0 in favor of the resolution authored by Senator James Risch calling on Iran to set Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian and former FBI agent Robert Levinson free.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the resolution directs the administration to "use the tools it has in pursuit of what should be a bipartisan goal: securing the release of American citizens being held as hostages by the regime in Iran," according to Charisma News.

The White House has previously warned that any amendment that will demand the release of Abedini and fellow American prisoners will be vetoed.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that involving the captivity of these Americans in the discussion with Iran is unacceptable.

He said, "The President would certainly veto any amendment or any bill with an amendment that undermined the unanimous compromise that was reached in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or that interfered with the ongoing negotiations."

"Certainly a provision, an amendment, that made this nuclear deal contingent on Iran's release of those three American citizens would fall, I think frankly, into both categories," he added, according to ACLJ.

To this, Sen. Risch said commented, "It is only right that the President should ensure Iran frees Pastor Abedini and the other Americans they have held captive for too many years before the United States provides any sanctions relief."

After the unanimous voting on Monday, the senator tweeted, "We will continue our battle to see them released," Boise State Public Radio reports.

Abedini is a Christian pastor who is serving an 8-year prison sentence in Iran. He is a U.S. citizen from Boise, Idaho, where he lived with his wife and children. He has been detained since 2012.

He was first arrested in 2009 when he helped lead and organize underground Christian churches in Iran. After agreeing with the condition that he would stop helping underground churches, he was let go. He was allowed to return to Iran freely, which he did occasionally to visit his family.

In 2012, he was arrested again for his involvement in the building of an orphanage. After confiscating his passport, the authorities initially placed him under house arrest before transferring him to Evin Prison.

In 2013, he was transferred to Rajai Shahr prison, which has a harsher environment compared to Evin. His family fears for the continuous threat to his life from fellow inmates. They also worry about his deteriorating health, as he has been repeatedly denied medical attention for the injuries he sustained from the beatings of inmates and prison authorities.