Obama admin. renews call for Abedini's release

Saeed Abedini
 
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Obama administration has renewed its call for the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini. Meanwhile, the pastor has sent a letter thanking the president for visiting his family in Idaho, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported.

"We again call on Iran to release Mr. Abedini so that he may be reunited with his family," the ACLJ quoted National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan. "We remain concerned about the health and welfare of Mr. Abedini, sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," Meehan said, "and we repeat our request for Iran to grant Swiss officials, who serve as our protecting power, consular access to determine his well-being."

The renewed call came Jan. 29 about the time President Obama received a letter from Abedini thanking the president for meeting with Abedini's wife Naghmeh and their two children in Boise, Idaho, Jan. 21.

The U.S. State Department has also arranged for Naghmeh Abedini to travel to Washington in February to meet David Saperstein, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, to discuss efforts to free the pastor.

"There is activity going on in trying to bring him home," Naghmeh Abedini said in an interview with KIVI-TV near Boise, Idaho.

In his letter posted on the ACLJ website, Saeed Abedini thanked Obama for seeking his release.

"I was personally encouraged that you were in my hometown of Boise, Idaho and made time to visit my wife and children. They have had a heavy burden to carry in my absence, and your presence helped to relieve some of that burden," Abedini wrote. "Thank you for your fatherly compassion of letting Jacob know that you will try to get me home by his birthday [in March]. I know that as a father you can truly understand the pain and anguish of my children living without their father and the burden that is on my wife as a single mother.

"I also know how encouraged Christians around the world were to also hear of this meeting," he wrote. "Nothing is more valuable to the body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer."

The pastor offered prayer for the president's well-being.

"President Obama, you have my prayers from inside of these walls," Abedini wrote. "I pray for God's guidance, wisdom and blessing for you as you lead this great nation. God Bless you and your family and God Bless America!"

The letter was mailed by Abedini's father in Iran, who obtained the letter during a 20-minute meeting allowed each week with the pastor at Rajaee Shahr prison in Karaj, Iran, Naghmeh Abedini said on Facebook.

Saeed Abedini's father said his son's health is poor, the ACLJ reported.

"Pastor Saeed's stomach pain -- lingering injuries from prison beatings -- remains a concern. Pastor Saeed expressed increased amounts of pain," the ACLJ reported. "He has still not received the critical medical attention he needs in a private hospital. He needs surgery."

Saeed Abedini has been imprisoned since Sept. 26, 2012 because of his Christian faith. He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, to eight years in prison on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July, 2012.

Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor.
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