Christian Pastor’s Wife: Obama Asked Rouhani To Release My Husband
In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the wife of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini who has been sentenced to eight years in prison, said that during the September 27 telephone conversation between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani, the release of her husband was discussed. “Although a few weeks have passed since the two presidents’ phone conversation and Saeed is not free yet, I am hopeful that he will be released in the next few months. But, if this does not happen I will not be disappointed and I would still continue my efforts to gain my husband’s release.”
According to Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, during the historic telephone conversation between the Iranian and American presidents, the first such call in 34 years, Mr. Obama asked for the release of three US citizens who are serving time in Iranian prisons. A few days before the phone call on September 25, in an interview with CNN, Hassan Rouhani was also asked whether he could do anything for the release of the three Americans (Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati) who are serving time in prison in Iran. He replied, “There is a separation of different branches in Iran and for this reason the administration does not have the right to intervene in the affairs of the Judiciary branch, and the Judiciary branch acts independently.” In a different part of the same interview he said, “…it’s a noble act if governments could help… but we also have people who are in the American prisons. These requests are bilateral, meaning the United States could also help with the release of those Iranian citizens who are in American prisons, and we must likewise help those individuals who have American citizenship.”
“Up until now Mr. Rouhani has shown in his talks that he wishes for freedom and the establishment of friendly relationships with other countries. I am really hopeful that during his administration my husband, who is in prison just because of converting [to] his religion, is freed,” said Naghmeh Abedini.
In their efforts toward the release of Christian convert Saeed Abedini, the European Union’s Parliament issued a statement on Thursday, October 10, calling for the release of the 33-year old prisoner. The statement asks for his release “without delay.”
“Iran is holding Saeed illegally. Saeed’s issue is not political; rather, it is the issue of his freedom to choose his religion. Also, Saeed is a U.S. citizen and Iran cannot keep him in prison,” said Naghmeh Abedini.
Saeed Abedini is an Iranian-American Christian convert who, after changing his religion to Christianity in 2000, left Iran for the US. He has traveled to Iran many times since his conversion, lastly in July 2012 “to visit his family and continue his work to build an orphanage,” according to his wife. On January 27, 2013, Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced him to eight years in prison for “intending to disrupt Iranian national security by establishing a network of Christian house churches.” An appeals court upheld the sentence and Abedini is now held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.