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Families Plead to Washington, Tehran for Release of Americans

Relatives Call for Release of American Captives in Iran
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Related video report by Meredith Buel

The families of four Americans detained or missing in Iran appealed to officials in the United States and Tehran on Tuesday to get their loved ones back to the United States, as another deadline in nuclear negotiations between the two countries nears.

During a Congressional hearing, Nagameh Abedini told members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that her husband Saeed, a Christian convert, has been threatened with death if he does not denounce his religion in the largely Shi'ite Muslim country. Paired with solitary confinement, she worries about his mental health the longer he is imprisoned.

"My biggest worry as a wife and mother is the condition I will have to deal with when he comes home," Abedini said.

Families Plead to Washington, Iran for Release of Loved Ones
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After two hours of testimony, the committee passed a resolution calling for the release of the three Americans confirmed to be in Iranian custody. Lawmakers also repeated requests for Iran to provide information on U.S. citizens who have disappeared in the country.

The son of Robert Levinson, a former U.S. federal agent who was working in Iran when he was kidnapped in Iran in 2007, pleaded Tuesday for any information on his father, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

"We are just desperate for anything, any kind of answers, any acknowledgement that he's there," the younger Levinson said. "Anything that will provide us - that will give us hope."

In a Republican-led Congress, lawmakers have demanded a greater say in the ongoing negotiations between Washington, Tehran, and several other governments over Iran's nuclear program, set to conclude at the end of June. Echoing the views of other representatives attending the hearing, Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon wants the freedom of the captive Americans to be a contingency of any agreement.

"Any deal with Iran is dead on arrival that does not include the release of these prisoners," Salmon told the committee.

Also testifying Tuesday were Ali Rezaian, brother of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, and Sarah Hekmati, whose brother Amir has been held since 2011 while visiting family in Iran.