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OTR Interviews

Freed Christian pastor: My time in Iranian captivity

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 25, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: At least three Americans imprisoned in Iraq are now free and safe back in the United States. Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini, Marine Amir Hekmati and reporter Jason Rezaian, all freed from the hell inside those Iranian prisons. It was a historic prisoners' swap. 

But one American was seemingly left behind. Former FBI Agent Bob Levinson is nowhere to be seen, and the fight to bring him home continues. But for three families, the fight is over. And that is great for them and I am very happy for them. And today, I traveled to North Carolina to meet with Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, who is resting at the Billy Graham Training Center. 

 Abedini explained the horrors he saw and endured behind bars. And one of pastor Abedini's most distinct memories is the moment he set foot in front of an Iranian judge.

BEGIN VIDEO:

SAEED ABEDINI, CHRISTIAN PASTOR RELEASED FROM IRAN: I said I am here because of my Christian faith started (Inaudible), and he said no, you are not here this. You are here because you want to use Christianity to remove government. And it was like no, I don't want to do that. I just came here to start an orphanage, to loving people and share the gospel with people and just that. He said no, you guys are using Christianity to remove the government. That's the reason you are here.

I said no, I didn't do that. I pray for you. I love you. And I didn't come for that. And he started yelling at me, very angry. And when my lawyer started talking he didn't let him talk, so after 10 minutes, he said to the guards that you can take them back to prison. When they sent me to the other -- marine was over there. And they bound my eyes. They took me to his room and I had been there almost 60 days.

VAN SUSTEREN: In the same room with Amir Hekmati.

ABEDINI: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: You guys talk about things or you communicate with each other.

ABEDINI: First, when I removed my eye band and I saw Amir, I got very heartbroken to see what they did to our marine. He was -- I saw his eyes were completely black. He got so thin, very weak. I started crying, you know. That's a real war. That's a real fight. You know it was very hard to me. So I went there, we shook hands. We hugged each other. We tried to encourage each other. I can see it was very best moment that I have since I got arrested and to see him alive. We had been there for two months together.

VAN SUSTEREN: In the same room.

ABEDINI: In the same room.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anybody else there.

ABEDINI: Sometimes other prisoners stay with us and then after a week or two weeks, they just removed them again.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you pass time you and Amir Hekmati for those months?

ABEDINI: That was the hardest thing because there is nothing to do. So I made a plan that I can talk to him, encourage him, and mostly I was praying each day, hours and hours, more than 20 hours. It was a wonderful time. But the other thing they didn't give us books to read. They didn't give us our own clothes. They didn't give us anything. It was just me and him in a room, nothing to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: For two months.

ABEDINI: For two months. Actually, he was over there for more than a year in the same room when I met him. But after coming out from solitary and seeing one person that you can talk, it was like heaven you know, so it was a good time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did they ever torture you? Look, I think solitary confinement of course, is torture. Did they ever torture you physically?

ABEDINI: Yes. In interrogation, once they beat me very badly because they want me to write something that they want, which I didn't do that. You know they tried hard to damage my reputation in Iran. So they asked me to write and sign the things that I didn't do that. And so -- actually was in the courtroom closed the doors and the interrogators started hitting me. At that time, I got stomach bleeding. And they asked me the things criminal prisoners do. So when I deny it, they start beating me and they asked me it to sign it and write it I deny. When they saw it doesn't work, they let me go.

VAN SUSTEREN: And beat you with their fists?

ABEDINI: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there other torture going on in the prison that you knew about, other forms?

ABEDINI: The other forms was when I was interrogated with my interrogator, he told me I am going to do three things to you. First, I am going to put you to the other prisoners and they're going to beat you to the death, which he did later. The second thing was -- he said to me, I am going to send you to the worse prison than I had been. The third thing was the threat of death. And when you finish your sentence, and you go to U.S., we'll always follow you.

And if you continue the thing that you did, we're going to kill you as the other pastor had to them. So they took me to prisoners -- we have like a normal talk and it was a very heavy firing chair over there. He grabbed it and hit it to my face and my head. So I got it. I got the chair when he hit my head and my leg, so the guard came and they didn't let him continue what he did.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you see other people get beaten and tortured?

ABEDINI: A lot.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what? What manner?

ABEDINI: The worse thing that I saw was when they took some Sunnis for execution. It was in front of our eyes. They took 10 of them to hang every Wednesday. They hang people and they take them for execution. Most of them are Sunnis. Some of them police prisoners. Most of them are there for their faith, so when they want to take them they were scared, so like the soldier they would tape their hands, their feet, grab them, you know like they take a lamb for slaughtering -- yelling, and some of them crying. Some of them wet themselves.

It was very graphic things when they took people for execution.

END VIDEO

VAN SUSTEREN: And there is much more from our conversation with Pastor Abedini. And you're going to hear much more of this chilling interview in the days and weeks ahead. You're also going to hear from his sister and Reverend Franklin Graham who has been helping the Christian pastor's reentry into the United States.