(WASHINGTON) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has stayed largely out of the limelight in the past few months, but her social media presence is still going strong.
Now the onetime GOP vice presidential nominee, who has almost 3.5 million likes on Facebook, is appealing to her followers on behalf of an American pastor from Idaho held prisoner in Iran.
Less than two weeks ago, an Iranian court sentenced Saeed Abedini to eight years in prison for his religious beliefs after a brief trial that he was not allowed to attend, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
“We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini,” Carney said during a press briefing on Jan. 28. “We obviously have a variety of means, including this podium, to express our views on matters like this, and we are very concerned about this and very concerned about the process that led to this.
The State Department remains in close contact with Abedini’s family, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in a news briefing two days later.
At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry, in a written statement, called on Iranian authorities to release Abedini, an Idaho television station reported.
But one group is reaching beyond U.S. officials to try to get help for Abedini. The American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian activist organization, has launched a campaign called #SaveSaeed, promoting a petition it plans to bring to international authorities.
Palin first tweeted about Abedini’s case in late December, before the court handed down its ruling.
On Dec. 20, Palin tweeted, “President @BarackObama, please help the American Pastor jailed in Iran for his #Christian faith! http://aclj.us/7sud via @ACLJ.”
For more than a month, Palin was silent on social media about #SaveSaeed. Then Friday morning, Palin’s daughter, former Dancing With the Stars competitor Bristol Palin, wrote a blog post urging readers to sign a petition to have Abedini freed, and tweet using the hashtag and pray for him and his family.
The former Alaska governor later linked to her daughter’s post on both Facebook and Twitter.
On Friday, Palin tweeted, “Please Help #SaveSaeed http://fb.me/2qt0o5y3G.”
The #SaveSaeed website claimed to have more than 170,000 signatures as of 4 p.m. Friday. Videos promoting the petition say the group’s goal is to reach 300,000 signatures before it presents the petition to the United Nation and the European Commission of Human Rights.
Other celebrities have flocked to the cause, including Christian singer-songwriters Steven Curtis Chapman and TobyMac.
A Twitter account claiming to be Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor’s wife, tweeted her thanks to those who had signed the petition Friday.
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