Wife of imprisoned pastor says family devastated after Iran deal fails to secure his release
Published November 25, 2013
The wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini says she and her family are devastated after learning that the Obama administration did not try to secure the release of her husband as part of the newly signed deal on Iran's nuclear program.
Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year for practicing Christianity. The talks over Iran's nuclear program were seen by his family and those representing them as one of the most promising avenues yet for securing his release.
But the White House confirmed over the weekend that Abedini's status was not on the table during those talks.
"It's devastating," the pastor's wife Naghmeh Abedini told Fox News Radio.
She said her children were praying to have him home for the holidays. "It's unbearable," she said, "to think of another Christmas without him and see my kids not have him home for Christmas."
After the nuclear deal announced over the weekend, Abedini said she doesn't see "any more leverage left."
"Iran has no incentive for them to release him. I don't think we have any more leverage," she said. "We now have to consider other avenues and having other countries speak out because our country when we could have used our leverage chose to stay silent."
Abedini and others were hopeful after President Obama personally raised Abedini's plight in a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September.
As the matter appeared to languish, the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the Abedini family, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to demand Abedini's release as a condition of any agreement on Iran's nuclear program.
The deal announced over the weekend, though, included no mention of Abedini. Obama also did not mention the pastor's case when he made brief remarks from the White House late Saturday night, announcing a six-month plan to suspend parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a rollback of some sanctions.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ, accused Obama and Kerry of having "turned their backs on a U.S. citizen."
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, confirmed that the Iran talks "focused exclusively on nuclear issues," though said the U.S. "has certainly raised" Abedini's case and that of other imprisoned Americans as part of bilateral discussions.
Another case that has recently drawn public attention is that of Amir Hekmati, a U.S. Marine who was arrested in Iran in 2011 while visiting his grandmother.
He was detained on charges of spying for the CIA and sentenced to death. His family says the confession was coerced.
The FBI also reported that, as of this Tuesday, former FBI official Robert Levinson will become one of the longest-held Americans in history -- he went missing after traveling to an island off Iran in March 2007; the U.S. government has since received indications he's being held.
Fox News Radio's Mike Majchrowitz contributed to this report.