President Obama spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Friday (Sept. 28), noting his concern about a U.S. pastor who has been held in prison in Iran for a year.
In a 15-minute phone call that included other issues, President Obama expressed his concern about three American citizens who have been held within Iran — Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati — and noted U.S. interest in seeing them reunited with their families. Saeed Abedini, a pastor who has two children, was arrested while visiting his family last year.
Earlier this week, the Iranian president crossed paths with Abedini’s wife at the United Nations. Naghmeh Abedini rushed to give a letter from her husband to one of Rouhani’s aides, who promised to give it to the president. With the news of Obama’s conversation with Rouhani, she called it an “answer to prayer.”
“This is the most encouraging news I have heard since Saeed was imprisoned one year ago,” Naghmeh Abedini said. “I am very grateful to President Obama for standing up for Saeed and for the other Americans who are held captive in Iran.”
She also spoke at Liberty University, saying 30 people in Evin Prison, where Abedini is held, have become Christian because of him.
Abedini’s American lawyer says he was arrested because of his faith while working at an orphanage in Iran.
Earlier this year, religious freedom activists scolded the U.S. State Department for not doing enough about Abedini’s imprisonment.
In March, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement calling for Abedini’s release. Earlier this summer, the White House issued a statement pressing for the pastor’s release.
94-year-old evangelist Billy Graham called for release in a New York Times advertisement.