Kerry 'deeply concerned' about Boise pastor held captive in Iran

Credit: Naghmeh Abedini

Kerry 'deeply concerned' about Boise pastor held captive in Iran

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by Scott Evans

Bio | Email | Follow: @ScottEvansKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 22 at 6:27 PM

BOISE -- The wife of captured Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini is getting a little more help this week to free her husband from an Iranian prison.

Saeed Abedini is less than a year into an eight-year sentence, accused of being a threat to national security. However, Naghmeh Abedini says her husband is really in jail because he's a Christian.

On March 20th, several congressmen wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to make a statement supporting freedom for Abedini.

On Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation's Human Rights Council called for his release.

In a story you'll see only on 7, our Scott Evans had a chance to sit down with Saeed's wife to get reaction to this help.

PASTOR'S WIFE SPEAKS

For the better part of a year Naghmeh Abedini has tried to do everything she can to get the attention of the Obama Administration and ask for its help in freeing Saeed Abedini.

"It's been very frustrating, wondering why they haven't been so aggressive in speaking out about Saeed," said Naghmeh Abedini.

Naghmeh wants her husband freed from one of the most dangerous prisons in Iran. "America was founded on freedom, religious freedom, and it's sad to see it's not a priority any more to fight and stand up for religious freedom," said Naghmeh.

Yet, Thursday saw the first proactive statement made by the Obama Administration on the situation, given at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

"We repeat our call for the Government of Iran to release Mr. Abedini, and others who are unjustly imprisoned, and to cease immediately its persecution of all religious minority communities," said Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.

NAGHMEH'S REACTION

"It's good that the ambassador spoke out, but it's not enough. We're asking Secretary Kerry to also speak out and take more proactive actions," said Naghmeh Abedini.

Last Friday, after testifying before the congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Naghmeh met with members of the State Department, where she says promises were made that more would be done.

That was one week ago.

Another promise made came from the Iranian government in the interim. Officials there promised to send Saeed to a private hospital to be treated for internal bleeding.

Naghmeh remains wary of the promise. "Until he's in a hospital and treated, we can't really hold on to trust their promises," said Naghmeh. While she and her family suffer not knowing if her husband will be freed, or even survive, Naghmeh says she will continue to rely on her faith to get her through. "It's hard to be hopeful sometimes with seeing lack of action and lack of promises from the Iranian government, but I'm still hopeful," said Naghmeh.

On Friday afternoon, US government human rights website posted a statement from Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for Saeed Abedini's release. In the statement, Kerry also says he's deeply concerned about Saeed's fate, disturbed by reports that he has been abused in prison, and troubled by the lack of due process.

Kerry wrote the following:

"I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire. Such mistreatment violates international norms as well as Iran's own laws."

I am also troubled by the lack of due process in Mr. Abedini's case and Iran's continued refusal to allow consular access by Swiss authorities, the U.S. protecting power in Iran. I welcome reports that Mr. Abedini was examined by a physician and expect Iranian authorities to honor their commitment to allow Mr. Abedini to receive treatment for these injuries from a specialist outside the prison. The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released.

Naghmeh Abedini is continuing to get more people to join the cause to free her husband. You can find a petition to free Saed Abedini here.

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