Obama speaks to Iranís leader about U.S. pastorís releasecomment (0)
October 10, 2013
A historic phone call between President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sept. 27 capped a significant week in the case of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran.
During the 15-minute call, Obama voiced concern for Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who marked a year of incarceration for his Christian faith Sept. 26. Though Secretary of State John Kerry has called for Abedini’s release, this was the president’s first time to speak out on the pastor’s behalf.
Obama also expressed concern for two other Americans imprisoned or missing in Iran, in addition to dealing with other topics.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said the call marked “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.”
The conversation was the first time presidents of the two countries have spoken directly since 1979.
Abedini’s family is optimistic in the wake of the presidents’ phone call, as Iran released 91 prisoners of conscience in the days leading up to Rouhani’s Sept. 24 speech at the United Nations. Two of them were women held since 2009 on charges of “undermining the national security of Iran” after they converted from Islam to Christianity and joined a house church, according to Morning Star News.
Obama’s move was “a significant step forward in this critical case,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh Abedini. “We’re ... grateful to President Obama for raising Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment and call on President Rouhani to put his promise of being ‘moderate’ into action by releasing Saeed without further delay.”
The 33-year-old pastor had converted from Islam to Christianity in Iran in 2000 and planted house churches until 2005. Although Iran has no law against house churches, the government termed his involvement a threat to “national security,” even though he had ceased such work after agreeing in 2009 to limit his ministry to humanitarian work, according to Morning Star News.