Washington (CNN ) – Sen. Ted Cruz joined about 20 protesters and members of different Christian churches outside the White House Thursday to pray for the swift return of an American pastor being held in Iran, reportedly for his Christian beliefs.
Pastor Saeed Abedini has been held in Iran and Thursday marked the one year anniversary of his detention.
Cruz called on the Obama administration to do more to secure the release of Abedini and other Americans being held in Iran.
The Republican senator from Texas said he is sponsoring legislation that would provide "two preconditions" to a meeting between President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The first, he said, would ask "that Rouhani affirm Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state." The second would call on the Iranian president to "release the American prisoners who are suffering in his jail cells right now, including Pastor Abedini."
Following the remarks, Cruz joined several clergy members in kneeling in front of the White House and offering prayers for the quick and safe return of Abedini.
Earlier this week, CNN's Christiane Amanpour asked the Iranian president about Abedini's detention, as well as several other cases of Americans being held. The Iranian president held open the door to helping resolve the cases, but said it's a two way street.
"I would like to say that we also have people who are in prison here in the United States. And we have all – this is a sort of a mutual request. Um, the U.S. government, who must assist those Iranians, those people who are of Iranian citizenship, who are in prison here, as we should assist those people who have American citizenships that are incarcerated in Iran." Rouhani said.