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Pastor Saeed Abedini's Wife Urges Congress to Demand His Release in Iran Negotiations

( [email protected] ) Dec 14, 2013 03:02 PM EST
Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed who has being held in one of the most dangerous prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is pleading with Congress to urge the release of her husband during nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Pastor Saeed Abedini and his children. ACLJ

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed who has being held in one of the most dangerous prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is pleading with Congress to urge the release of her husband during nuclear negotiations with Iran. Saeed was imprisoned in August 2012 for being suspect of evangelizing while on a trip to help build an orphanage. He was sentenced to eight years in the Iranian prison system, which could very well mean death for the pastor.

Saeed Abedini came to Christ over ten years ago from a Muslim background. The American citizen was arrested in 2009 for starting house churches in Iran, and was released upon promising not to do so any longer. On a recent trip to build orphanages in his homeland, Pastor Saeed was arrested again suddenly and thrown into prison for being suspected of sharing his Christian faith with others.

It has been more than one year since Saeed was imprisoned, and his health is deteriorating from severe beatings, torture, and bad living conditions. He was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison, known as one of Iran's most "dangerous and obscure prisons" according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in early November. "Pastor Saeed is a modern day Daniel in a modern day lions' den," says the ACLJ - "It is absolutely crucial that we pray and speak out for his freedom."

While Saeed's cell mates were initially political prisoners, Rajai Shahr Prison is comprised of those imprisoned for murder, and many have been killed by fellow prisoners there. The ACLJ reports that 22,000 violent criminals are kept in the prison, which was built to hold 5,000 people; thus, the living conditions are atrocious.

What's more, Saeed is being denied medication for his internal bleeding, caused by severe beatings at his first prison. His health may deteriorate quickly without his medication, and the dangerous living conditions in the prison worsen the likelihood that he will survive his eight-year-term.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution asking Iran for Pastor Saeed's release on November 14; however, the nuclear negotiations which took place later that month between the United States and Iran did not involve Saeed. "Pastor Saeed has been left behind - betrayed by his own government," says the ACLJ - "[His] family is left without their husband and father."

In their defense of the issue, the State Department said they didn't mention Pastor Saeed when negotiating with the Islamic Republic in November because they didn't want Iran to use Saeed as a bargaining chip.

Naghmeh testified before Congress Thursday, hoping to compel them to call for Saeed's release. "It's been a struggle as a Mom watching my seven-year-old and my five-year-old cry themselves to sleep every single night for the last 444 days," she says - "I very much feel abandoned, and I feel my husband has been abandoned."

Saeed is no longer allowed to make telephone calls to his wife and children - "He's missing out on them growing up," she told Fox News. Thankfully, Naghmeh is able to find out how her husband is doing through his parents, who visit Saeed in prison every week.