U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is demanding that Iran release its political prisoners following the publication of a joint letter written by families of those detained in Iran.
"Our hearts hurt for the families around the world whose loved ones have become political prisoners in Iran," Haley said Monday.
Iran's practice of detaining foreigners, including Americans, "is just another example of Iran's violations of international norms," she said.
The families of seven political prisoners being held in Iran wrote an open letter Monday to world leaders, rights organizations and media outlets asking for urgent action in the prisoners' release.
"We come from many countries, with different backgrounds and different perspectives, but we have banded together now to come to you as one voice. We shall remain quiet no longer," the families wrote.
The families said over 50 people who have some connection to a western power have been detained by Iran since 2007. "The evidence is conclusive, and we should call this what it is — hostage taking," the families wrote.
The families said they first met in September at a side event during the United Nations General Assembly and again a few weeks ago with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. They said the similarities between their loved ones' cases is "striking."
"Over several agonizing years, our loved ones' cases have each been treated individually. But while they are all unique and complicated cases, this is not an individual problem. It is a pattern — a pattern we call on world leaders to help end," they said.
Haley said "Iran invented reasons to throw these innocent people in jail and keeps them there with no end in sight and no fair judicial process for them to pursue."