The wife of an American pastor and father of two imprisoned for his faith in Iran blasted the Obama administration Thursday on Capitol Hill for ignoring her husband’s worsening plight while striking a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
Naghmeh Abedini, whose husband, Saeed Abedini, is serving an eight-year prison term in Iran after being arrested more than a year ago while visiting his homeland, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee his health is failing in prison.
“My husband is suffering because he’s a Christian and he’s an American, but his own government did not fight for him when they were sitting across the table from his captors,” Naghmeh Abedini said, referring to a newly signed deal between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program.
“I never anticipated that I would have to [battle] my own government” to secure her husband’s freedom,” she said.
“His condition has worsened and the kids and I fear his life,” she said, before holding up a photograph of her children on their first day of school. “Tears were streaming down my face as I got the kids ready for school with their father missing.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, said “time is running out” for Abedini, who experts believe would be unlikely to survive eight years in Iran’s brutal prison system.
“Arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison for somehow ‘undermining the security of Iran’ by pastoring to Christian churches, U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini has endured imprisonment, solitary confinement, beatings, and untreated internal bleeding,” Smith said.”“The United States has appealed to Iran at the highest levels, and Iran responded early last month by moving Pastor Abedini to an even more dangerous prison, housing him with violent criminals. This hearing will examine the effort to save him before it is too late.”
Abedini “went to Iran to build an orphanage for Iranian children last year” and “remains in an absolute hell-hole prison,” Smith told the committee.
Also testifying was Jordan Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice, which has served as the Abedini family’s legal advisors.
Abedini, an American citizen who lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two children, converted from Islam to Christianity more than a decade ago, and was previously sanctioned for evangelizing in Iran. But the 34-year-old father of two claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an orphanage when authorities pulled him off a bus in August of 2012 and threw him into the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.
He was later sentenced to eight years and has since been moved to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, a prison known to house Iran’s most violent criminals. His supporters say he has been beaten and tortured in the prison. According to reports, Rajai Shahr Prison was built to accommodate 5,000 inmates, but at present houses about 22,000, which has led to severe overcrowding and inhumane conditions.
Naghmeh Abedini told Fox News last month that her family was “devastated” after learning 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. 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.
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.”