Saeed Abedini Among 5 Americans Released by Iran; Franklin Graham Praises God for ‘Answered Prayer’

Saeed Abedini, a U.S. pastor was arrested In Iran in 2012.
Saeed Abedini, a U.S. pastor was arrested In Iran in 2012.

His wife says their children are “excited … besides themselves”; But homecoming may be difficult for Abedini, whose wife publicly accused him of abuse

After more than three years in an Iranian prison, Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Boise whose jailing galvanized U.S. Christians, was among the five Americans released Saturday.

But what life Abedini will be returning to in Boise after his long absence is an open question. His wife, Naghmeh, stunned her husband’s many supporters in November by publicly accusing her husband of abuse.

Still, she woke her children up first thing Saturday to tell them the news.

“The children are excited. They’re beside themselves,” she told the Idaho Statesman. “They keep asking me, ‘When are we going to see him?’”

U.S. officials confirmed that Abedini was one of four imprisoned Americans released, including a Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian; Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Mich.; and Nosratallah Khosravi-Roodsari, who was identified only as a businessman.

A fifth American, identified in news reports as a student, Matthew Trevitthick, also was released, though his freedom was considered separate from the other four’s.

Naghmeh Abedini said she didn’t know when her husband would be back in the U.S. A U.S. official said work was proceeding Sunday morning in Iran to get the four prisoners on a plane, while the student had already left.

Jay Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law & Justice, which has been advising Naghmeh Abedini, told the Statesman that Saeed Abedini was expected to be taken on a Swiss airliner to Germany for medical tests.

“He’s faced some serious medical issues throughout this three-year process,” Sekulow said.

In return, the United States “offered clemency to seven Iranians, six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens, who had been convicted or are pending trial in the United States,” the U.S. officials said. “The United States also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”

For many Christians, it was Abedini’s release that resonated the most. The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, welcomed the release in a Facebook post. “I praise God for answered prayer and thank all of you who have prayed faithfully for his release!” he wrote.

Graham and scores of other religious leaders had advocated Abedini’s freedom, holding a vigil in front of the White House at one point and pressing for his release. Naghmeh Abedini met with President Barack Obama when he visited Boise last January. She said Obama promised to work to bring her husband home before his term ends next January.

“I was hoping for it, but I didn’t see it coming” so soon, she said.

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SOURCE: Idaho Statesman
Matthew Schofield and Erin Fenner

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