OTR Interviews

Why has the State Department abandoned an American pastor held in an Iranian prison?

State Department's absence at hearing spoke volumes as Saeed Abedini's wife pleaded for help in freeing him from Iranian prison


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 18, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: An American Christian pastor held in a vicious Iranian prison. His wife is pleading to the United States government for help, saying she is disappointed that President Obama and the State Department are not doing more to free her husband. She gave emotional testimony on Capitol Hill.


NAGHMEH ABEDINI, WIFE OF PASTOR JAILED IN IRAN: On July 28th he was taken off a bus by the Revolutionary Guard and put under house arrest for two months. I remember our kids would continually be able to hear his voice and see him on the computer on Skype. And the day he was taken we didn't know where he was for a week. They kept coming to the computer and saying, "Mommy can we see daddy and hear his voice?" I kept saying, no, we can't. I couldn't explain to them that he was physically taken to prison.

And finally they kept saying, "Does daddy not love us anymore? Does daddy not want to hear our voice anymore?" And I had to tell them, daddy was in prison because he loved Jesus.


VAN SUSTEREN: No one from the State Department even attended that hearing. Naghmeh Abedini joins us along with the executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice Jordan Sekulow. Naghmeh, before I get to you, I want to ask your lawyer something. You have news tonight?

JORDAN SEKULOW, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: We have a few items to report that we have not released anyone until tonight, Greta. First, there has been a report from the U.N. mission, Iran's U.N. ambassadors, basically, to the Human Rights Council, that they've asked for a review of this case and maybe a retrial, maybe a look at the facts.

And that's very good news in light of the information that we've confirmed this afternoon. Said was able to get doctors today to do a review of his internal bleeding. That's something we've been very concerned about. His health has been bad and got the review by doctors today and told he'll be moved to a hospital outside Evan prison. Now, it's our turn to pressure Iran with this information to make sure that we try as much as possible to hold them to their word.

VAN SUSTEREN: Naghmeh, I imagine you're - "happy" is not quite the word, but relieved he's going to be moved to a hospital maybe. Do you have any sense of confidence that that will really happen or do you think that may just be the Iranians saying this passing for one day?

ABEDINI: As Jordan mentioned, we have to continue to put pressure to hold them to their word. They've made many promises they haven't followed through with. And I'm hoping that they will follow through with this and he will be admitted to the hospital. And so we will continue to put pressure and he'll be treated for the internal bleeding.

VAN SUSTEREN: Naghmeh, what has the state department, secretary of state, John Kerry and the president, have they done what is needed or do you want more from them?

ABEDINI: As we discussed in the hearing, the congressional hearing, it's always been a reactive, any statements, anything done have been more of a reaction to a question. We're expecting more of a proactive effort on their part and the statements coming from them in regard to Said being released and his violation of religious freedom and the way he's being treated.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jordan, we hear reports that he's being tortured and beaten while he is in this prison. I'm curious in the secretary of state did make another -- during the confirmation hearing did make a statement. What is the difference? Iran is not impressed with us in any fashion anyway, having the secretary say something else.

SEKULOW: The more commentary there's been, the media stories, the interviews we've done and leaders speaking out, the better treatment he's received. Now he was moved to a better ward at one point. Now he's saying he's got doctors at least reviewing his problems and been told he can go to a hospital.

The EU spoke out at the U.N., and the United States was there at the Human Rights Council and said nothing at all. So we've got nothing in these international tribunals from the United States of America. It's only response to reporter's questions, not a single proactive statement.

VAN SUSTEREN: I should point out that it is believed that he's being held because he is a Christian.

SEKULOW: He was charged with that.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was he charged with?

SEKULOW: He was charged with being a threat to national security because of his work with house churches from 2000 to 2005, so an old charge as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you both, and I hope that putting the spotlight on it helps in any possible way. Thank you both.