A Christian pastor held in captive for more than two years in an Iranian prisoner has been released. Saeed Abedini was among the three American citizens freed as part of the U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange over the weekend. In Exchange for their freedom,the United States granted amnesty to seven sentenced men.
“It is confirmed,” his wife Naghmeh announced on Twitter. “Saeed is released from Iranian prison.”
“This has been an answer to prayer,” she said in a statement from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), one of Abedini’s leading advocates. “This is a critical time for me and my family. We look forward to Saeed’s return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time.”
Jay Sekulow, one of Saeed’s advocates – chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) expressed gratitude saying: “This is a major victory. We are incredibly grateful to the more than 1.1 million people who have joined us in fighting across the globe for Pastor Saeed’s freedom.”
The American Center for Law and Justice had been campaigning for the release of Pastor Abedini for years, holding prayer sessions, collecting signatures for petitions, writing and sending letters to the U.N.
Abedini was born and breed as a Muslim. He converted to Christianity in 2000, and attained his American citizenship in 2010 following his marriage to an American woman Naghmeh.
Abedini, following his conversion to Christianity began to work with house churches in Iran even though technically legal,the government showed dissatisfaction with his work. He had been warned by the Muslim nation against his involvement with house churches.He eventually decided to shift his work towards non-religious humanitarian efforts.
After his conversion to Christianity, Abedini began working with house churches in Iran which, though technically legal, drew complaints from the government. He then agreed to shift his work towards non-religious humanitarian efforts.
While visiting non-religious orphanages in the summer of 2012, Saeed was taken into custody on the charges of undermining national security through private religious gatherings in Christian homes in Iran. On January 27, 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. In November 2013, the Iranian government transferred Abedini to Rajai Shahr prison, just outside Karaj, Iran. Religious freedom advocates had maintained that the arrest was actually due to his religious belief.
His wife, Naghmeh had spoken a number of times about the toll her husband’s captivity had been taking on their family.
In November 2015, Naghmeh ended her public advocacy for her husband’s freedom, because they had issues with their marriage, however when she learned about her husband’s release,she took to twitter to announce his release.
His release had been requested by Billy Graham, the White House, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United Nations.
Also released was Jason Rezaian,Washington Post journalist , who was apprehended more than a year ago, U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, who was also arrested in 2011 while visiting his grandmother, alongside Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari and Matthew Trevithick, a student.