Obama urges Rouhani to release U.S. pastor as prayer vigils continue


WASHINGTON – American Pastor Saeed Abedini is now aware that President Obama urged Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to release him from wrongful imprisonment for his Christian faith in Iran.

Early on the morning of Sept. 30 in Tehran, Abedini’s Iranian family was able to sit and visit with him – through a glass partition – during regular visitation hours at Evin Prison, said a spokesman for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), which is representing the Abedini family. For the first time, Abedini had a glimmer of hope that he would soon be released. Iranian news sources had reported on President Obama’s phone call with President Rouhani. Abedini was aware that his case, among other imprisoned Americans, was raised during this historic phone call – the first direct conversation between an American president and an Iranian president in 34 years.

“Although, the entire Abedini family is encouraged by the recent events, until Pastor Saeed’s feet are firmly planted on U.S. soil, they remain cautiously optimistic,” the ACLJ spokesman said. “As Iran tries to win over western countries, there is no better way to build confidence with the United States that Iran is serious than to release those Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.”

Just over a year ago, Iranian authorities illegally imprisoned Abedini solely for exercising his Christian faith.

“By releasing this innocent man, Iran would demonstrate its alleged moderacy with concrete action,” said the ACLJ spokesman. “We are keeping up the pressure on the Iranian government to release Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen. Already over 626,000 people have signed our petition to free Pastor Saeed and we have received over 134,000 letters to President Rouhani asking for his release.

“Now is a critical time to act for Pastor Saeed as his case has been raised to the highest levels of both the U.S. and Iranian governments. The world is watching.”

Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh is scheduled to attend the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting Oct. 29.