President promises to free Saeed Abedini

by Will Hall, |
In this photo from her Facebook page, Naghbeh Abedini is speaking out to free her husband, Saeed, from "the horrible conditions" he is experiencing in an Iranian prison. After more than two years of writing President Obama to ask his help in freeing the American pastor, she finally had a chance to speak to him in person, Wednesday, Jan. 21, while the president was in her city to speak at Boise State University. | FACEBOOK/Naghmeh Abedini

BOISE, Idaho (Christian Examiner) – Naghmeh Abedini reports her meeting with President Obama yesterday, Wednesday, Jan. 21, was amazing and the president said getting her husband Saeed out of prison in Iran "is a top priority."

She told the president she had fasted and prayed for three days and was convinced "God had ordained this meeting."

"I told him that the kids and I prayed for him and loved him, that as Christians that is what we are to do. He said he needed prayer ... and he is working very hard to get Saeed back home to our family," she added.

Earlier in the day, the American pastor's wife spoke with KTBV, a television station in Boise, and said her message was simple: She was going to relay her son Jacob's request to "please bring my Daddy home." But she and both children were with the president for 10 minutes, she said, and Jacob was able to speak to the president himself.

According to Abedini, Jacob asked, "Mr. President, can you please bring my Daddy home for my birthday?"

"President Obama asked Jacob when his birthday was," she recalled, "and Jacob said March 17. President Obama replied, 'I am going to try very hard to make that happen Jacob. I am going to try very hard...'"

Abedini said she and her children made the heart connection with President Obama that she had been praying for: 

"God was evidently present in the meeting. The entire time the president was holding my hand and reassuring me," she recounted. "At the end he gave me a hug and we took pictures."

She offered that today was a double blessing because her husband's father, who lives in Tehran, was able to visit with Saeed in prison and share "that so many people were praying and supporting him."

"Saeed was really encouraged," she relayed, but she followed up with concern that her husband's health continues to deteriorate in "the horrible conditions of the prison."

Still Abedini was upbeat and thankful for everyone's prayers: "God bless you all!"

Saeed Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 while he still lived in Tehran. He moved to the United States in 2005 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2010. He has been imprisoned since September 2012 when he was visiting Iran to build a government approved orphanage in the city of Rasht. He was arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at his parents' home in Tehran on charges of starting churches and later sentenced to eight years in prison.

The news from Naghmeh Abedini was a surprise given that the White House has been careful in its public discussion about Saeed Abedini's captivity and their efforts to free him. Iran is a co-belligerent against ISIS in Iraq, but both the United States and Iran are clear they are not allies. They also are in negotiations regarding Iran's nuclear power program.

But, just as surprising, the same day the president was meeting with the Abedini family in Boise, when queried on Twitter whether the effort to "free Saeed" was integral to negotiations with Iran, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Ben Rhodes replied, "We don't want cases of detained Americans linked to nuke negotiations - Iran should release them unconditionally."