President Obama met Wednesday with the wife of an American pastor who's been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years, telling her that securing Saeed Abedini was a top priority for his administration.
In a statement released Wednesday night by the American Center for Law and Justice, Naghmeh Abedini said she met with Obama for about 10 minutes in Boise, Idaho, before he addressed an audience at Boise State University about education.
"The president repeated his desire to do all that he can to bring Saeed home."
- Naghmeh Abedini
"He mentioned his first call several months ago to Iran’s president Rouhani and how Saeed was mentioned in that call," Naghmeh Abedini said. "He again reiterated that Saeed's case was a “top priority” and getting him back to the U.S., to our family, was a top priority."
“I am extremely thankful the president took the time to meet with our family and told us that securing the release of my husband is a top priority,” she said. “The president was focused and gracious, showing concern to me and my children. I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed’s release."
She added: "The president repeated his desire to do all that he can to bring Saeed home. That means the world to me and my children and has given me a renewed sense of hope.”
Naghmeh told Obama that she prays for him often, and said he smiled when Naghmeh told him that she had refrained from food and had fasted for days praying that God would grant this meeting with him.
Abedini was arrested in 2009, but released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran. He became a U.S. citizen in 2010, but remained committed to helping improve conditions in his homeland. When he returned to Iran in 2012 to help build a state-run, secular orphanage, police pulled him off a bus and imprisoned him. Over the last two-and-a-half years, Abedini has endured long stints in solitary confinement, and, according to his attorneys, beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates. For months, he has been denied proper medical attention for his injuries, according to his family and attorneys.
Last August, Abedini's children, Jacob, 6, and Rebekka, 7, made a YouTube video in which they appealed to President Obama to help win their father's freedom.
"I miss him so much,” Rebekka says in the video.