Barack Obama has finally spoken up about the U.S. pastor imprisoned for his faith in Iran's notorious Evin prison. Fox News reported that during a phone call late last week between President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Obama raised the issue of Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who has now been imprisoned in his native country for one year. The president allegedly expressed his concern over the wellbeing of Abedini, as well as two other U.S. citizens in the hostile country.
A White House official was quoted by Fox as saying that Obama duly registered his concern with Rouhani “about three American citizens who have been held within Iran: Robert Levinson [who is missing], Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati, and noted our interest in seeing those Americans reunited with their families.”
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, who days before the high-level dialogue encountered President Rouhani in a New York hotel lobby and presented him with a letter from her husband, called the latest development “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.”
While Secretary of State John Kerry made a belated appeal for the release of the three men several weeks ago, this is the first time that Obama has even publicly acknowledged Pastor Abedini's plight, although the pastor's apprehension, mock trial, and eight-year sentence by an Islamic court received substantial coverage in the American press.
Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been representing Abedini's wife and their two children, called Obama's actions “a significant step forward in this critical case. We're grateful to President Obama for raising Saeed's imprisonment and call on President Rouhani to put his promise of being 'moderate' into action by releasing Saeed without further delay.”
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Photo of President Barack Obama: AP Images