WASHINGTON — The wife of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran testified before a Congressional panel on Thursday, pleading for government intervention as she expressed her fears surrounding her husband’s plight.
“My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He is suffering because he is an American,” Naghmeh Abedini told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Yet, his own government, at least the executive and diplomatic representatives, has abandoned him. Don’t we owe it to him as a nation to stand up for his human rights, for his freedom?”
As previously reported, Pastor Saeed Abedini of Idaho, a former Muslim, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and children to find religious freedom. Last fall, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents—and was about to return to the states—when he was taken into custody.
Abedini was later charged with threatening the national security of Iran, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he has spent the past year. Last month, he was transported to Rajai Shahr Prison, which poses an even greater threat to Abedini’s health and safety.
“Prisoners have murdered other prisoners, while prison officials stood by and did nothing,” Naghmeh Abedini told Congress on Thursday. “In that place, nothing but the hand of God keeps him from being killed. Each day he remains in that dreadful place could mean a death sentence; any day could be execution day.”
She spoke of her children, Jacob and Rebecca, who “just want Daddy.”
“Most nights they cry themselves to sleep, wanting daddy home,” Abedini stated. “I have not had the heart to tell them of the eight-year sentence. I am hoping that I will not have to tell them of the 8-year sentence. I am hoping that we can bring Saeed home soon.”
The pastor’s wife also expressed her disappointment in the government and her real fears that her husband could lose his life in prison.
“While I am thankful for President Obama’s willingness to express concern about my husband and the other imprisoned Americans in Iran during his recent phone conversation with Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, I was devastated to learn that the administration didn’t even ask for my husband’s release when directly seated across the table from the leaders of the government that holds him captive,” she said.
“If we don’t do everything within our power as a nation to bring him home now, I fear he will be left to die,” Abedini stated candidly. “I fear my children will never see their father again.”
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been fighting for Abedini’s release, also testified before Congress on Thursday.
“It is my hope that, through the continued interest of Congress, Pastor Saeed’s case will be elevated to the highest levels of priority for our executive branch, that he will no longer be discussed on the margins, but rather that our government would truly do everything within its power to bring this U.S. citizen home to his wife and children,” he stated.
“I view today’s hearing as representative of your commitment to that cause, and I ask all members of Congress to encourage our president and secretary of state to elevate the priority of Pastor Saeed’s case,” Sekulow continued. “As Americans, we call on our government to do everything within its power to bring this husband and father home to his children.”