On these pages, I have written about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American pastor being held and tortured in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison after having received an eight-year sentence for his Christian activities. Last Friday, President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the telephone in the first communication between the leaders of the United States and Iran since 1979. The Christian Post has reported that Mr. Obama called for the release of Pastor Abedini and two other Americans being held in Iran. The other two Americans include Robert Levinson, and an alleged CIA spy Amir Hekmati. A senior Obama “Administration” official was quoted as saying that Mr. Obama “noted our interest in seeing those Americans reunited with their families.” However, press reports indicated that most of the 15-minute telephone conversation between the two leaders focused on nuclear issues.
Although Pastor Abedini was sentenced more than one year ago, this was the first time that Mr. Obama spoke out about the imprisonment of Pastor Abedini. Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said that this development was:
The most encouraging news I have heard since Saeed was imprisoned one year ago. I am very grateful to President Obama for standing up for Saeed and for the other Americans who are held captive in Iran. This development is truly an answer to prayer. I urge President Rouhani, as I have done throughout this week, to release Saeed so he can return to our home and our family in the United States. In recent days, Iran has released 80 prisoners being held because of their beliefs. I pray that we can add Saeed to that list very soon.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Mrs. Abedini and their two children, stated, “We’re very encouraged by President Obama raising the illegal imprisonment of American Saeed Abedini with Iranian President Rouhani. President Obama’s call to President Rouhani to release Saeed so he can be reunited with his family is a significant step forward in this critical case.”
Several days after the telephone call, Pastor Abedini’s Iranian family was able to visit with him at Evin Prison, and Pastor Abedini was told that Mr. Obama pressed for his release. As you can imagine, he was encouraged by this news that there was now a “glimmer of hope” that he might be eventually be released. However, it is not clear if Mr. Rouhani, a former commander of the Iranian air defenses, has much say in matters of national security, which is the domain of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Christians in Iran are prosecuted under the pretense of violations of “national security.”
At one of the many vigils held for Pastor Abedini around the world on September 26, 2013, the first anniversary of his imprisonment, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) prayed with others on his knees in front of the White House. Further, Dr. Billy Graham published a full-page advertisement in the New York Times urging Pastor Abedini’s release. Thank you again for your continued prayers for Pastor Abedini and his family, and for the other Christians who have been wrongly jailed for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in Iran. Please pray also for Mr. Levinson and Mr. Hekmati. Please continue to pray for our persecuted and jailed brothers and sisters, as we are instructed in Hebrews 13:3.