Published September 23, 2013
The wife of the American pastor held in Iran was able to hand-deliver a letter Monday to the delegation of Iran’s new president, in New York to attend the opening of the U.N General Assembly, asking for her husband’s quick release.
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been held in Iran for almost a year for his Christian faith, traveled from her home in Boise, Idaho this week to New York. Once there, she was able to approach Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s delegation in their hotel lobby and pass them the note, according to her attorneys.
Rowhani, a cleric and “moderate,” took office in August and has created a buzz about potential talks between his nation and the U.S. He traveled with his delegation to the annual U.N. General Assembly opening.
Abedini’s attorneys were hopeful that Rowhani would show clemency in cases of religious persecution.
Iran said Monday it had freed 80 political prisoners. The announcement came just hours after Rowhani departed for New York.
Last week news broke that the Iranian regime had released 11 other political prisoners, including some celebrated human rights activists, politicians and journalists.
“While the release of these prisoners of conscience is a welcomed humanitarian gesture from the new Iranian regime, Iran must release Pastor Saeed Abedini – a U.S. citizen – wrongly imprisoned for his faith,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s wife and their two children.
Last month, an Iranian court rejected an appeal from Abedini and refused to reduce the eight-year prison term his supporters believe is tantamount to a death sentence, according to his family and lawyers.
Abedini, 33, an American citizen who left his wife and two children behind in the U.S., has been held in Iran’s Evin Prison following his arrest. His supporters say he has been beaten and tortured in the prison, and that he was only in Iran to try to start a secular orphanage.
Thursday is the one-year anniversary of his imprisonment.
Abedini had been making one of his frequent visits to see his parents and the rest of his family in Iran, his native country, where he spent many years as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts.
On this last trip, the Iranian government pulled him off a bus and said he must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran.
Although Obama has not spoken out on Abedini's plight, the State Department has condemned his continued imprisonment.