1,000 Days: Pastor Saeed Abedini's Iran imprisonment marks grim milestone

American Pastor Saeed Abedini has now spent 1,000 days in captivity in Iran – nearly three years suffering in prison – separated from his wife, Naghmeh, and their two young children.

No one could have imagined that he would be imprisoned this long when he was taken into custody by Iranian authorities in 2012 simply because of his Christian faith.  Pastor Saeed was in Iran working on an orphanage when he was unexpectedly taken into custody by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

In January 2013, Pastor Saeed was convicted of undermining the national security of Iran for gathering with Christians in private homes from 2000 to 2005.  He was sentenced to 8-years in prison.

Pastor Saeed has endured much in the past 1,000 days. He still suffers from physical injuries that require much-needed medical attention – injuries received from past beatings by prison guards. He also faces psychological torture and as recently as a couple of weeks ago – he received another round of beatings – this time at the hands of fellow inmates instead of prison guards.

“One thousand days without Saeed has really become a lifetime for us,” Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, told me.

And while President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and others have called on Iran to release Pastor Saeed, the fact remains that Pastor Saeed is still not free and remains in a dangerous prison where he faces new threats daily.

What’s even more troubling, now that the U.S. is in the final stages of negotiating face-to-face with the Iranians to reach a nuclear deal by June 30th, there is growing concern that Pastor Saeed and three other Americans held hostage in Iran will be left behind if a deal is reached.

That concern is so real that members of Congress – who ultimately will approve or reject any deal with Iran – have passed resolutions in both the Senate and House – calling for the immediate release of Pastor Saeed, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, and demanding all known information on retired FBI agent Robert Levinson – who has disappeared inside Iran.

It is difficult to believe that the U.S. – which should be operating from a position of strength – has not secured the release of Pastor Saeed and the others.

Why won’t the U.S. demand that these Americans are freed and returned home before any nuclear deal with Iran is finalized?

It’s a question that puzzles Pastor Saeed’s family – a question that sadly remains unanswered.

As we continue to represent the Abedini family, we cannot stand by and remain silent. Our global awareness campaign for Pastor Saeed has just topped one million signatures. One million people standing up for Pastor Saeed – speaking out and praying for his freedom.

“One thousand days without Saeed has really become a lifetime for us,” Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, told me.

“My children continue to ask when Daddy is coming home,” Naghmeh added. “I no longer know what to tell them. While our faith keeps us going and continues to give us strength, we need Saeed to be returned to our family. We miss him terribly. His immediate return is the only thing that can mend our broken hearts.”

The time to bring Pastor Saeed home is now.