Pastor Saeed Abedini released from prison after three years
After spending more than three years in prison on account of his Christian faith, Pastor Saeed Abedini was released by the Iranian authorities last Saturday, along with three other detained Americans: Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian; former Marine Amir Hekmati and Nosratollah Khosavi-Roodsar. This was unexpected good news as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had previously declared that Abedini would not be set free until 19 Iranian prisoners held in the U.S. were released.
Iran released the four Americans in exchange for six people imprisoned in the US in a gesture that may be linked to the imminent implementation of the July 2015 historic nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers. High profile persons had campaigned for Abedini’s release, including President Obama and members of Congress.
Pastor Abedini of Boise, Idaho, served over three years of an eight year sentence during which his family says he endured physical, emotional and psychological abuse. His alleged crime was that of endangering Iran’s national security, but in reality it was because of his Christian faith. Abedini is a Muslim convert to Christianity who stated that he would not renounce his Christian faith to escape punishment. He was engaged in building an orphanage in Iran when he was arrested.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, who has tirelessly campaigned for his release since his imprisonment, said “This has been an answer to prayer. 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.” She added that their two young children, aged 9 and 5, had missed their father badly and was delighted that the family would be reunited at last.
Southern California pastor Greg Laurie, who led prayer rallies for Saeed’s release, stated “Christians around the world have been praying faithfully for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini” adding “It did not happen as quickly as we had hoped, but it happened in God’s perfect timing. Now we want to remember to continue to pray for Saeed, his wife, Naghmeh, and their children as they are finally reunited, as well as the rest of his family.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, declared: “We are grateful for the release of Pastor Saeed. The prayers of the Body of Christ all over the world have been answered,” and expressed his hope for religious freedom in Iran: “This day of celebration should remind us to pray and work all the more for the multitudes still persecuted for their faith all over the world, including in Iran. We hope and long for the day when Iran, and nations like it, are free from those who wish to enslave the conscience at the point of a sword”.