The U.S. government is being criticized by the American Center for Law and Justice for releasing an Iranian nuclear scientist as part of negotiation talks with the Islamic Republic, while failing to strike a deal for imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini and other Americans held in Iran.
“This is betrayal,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, according to Fox News. “A betrayal because not only did they not get the release of the three Americans, but they said they are working on this ‘on the margins.’ Our citizens are on the margins and then we are releasing an Iranian convicted on working on the nuclear issue.”
The ACLJ, which represents Abedini’s wife and two children in the U.S., has spoken at length about the U.S.-Iran negotiations, and asked why the Obama administration did not insist on the release of the pastor, who is serving eight years in prison because of his Christian faith.
The scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, was arrested in California in 2011 for trying to help Iran’s nuclear program by circumventing western sanctions, and has written over 30 technical articles about micro-engineering. A Times of Israel report revealed that he was released in April as part of “back channel talks.”
The State Department has apparently defended its actions, insisting that it is continuing to push for Abedini’s release outside of the nuclear talks.