Saeed Abedini is now a free man, able to return home from Iran to his family after three years in captivity for his faith.
The Christian pastor — and former Muslim — from Boise, Idaho, has been held by the Islamic Republic since 2012, but released Saturday as part of a prisoner swap for Iranian Americans held in the United States for violating sanctions against Tehran, according to the Washington Post.
The exchange comes just before the nuclear deal between the Obama White and Iran is expected to go into effect.
Abedini was held in Iran on national security charges, but has also been accused of proselytizing to Iranian Muslims.
Proselytizing is illegal in Iran but happens every day in the United States because, in contrast to Iran’s Islamic Republic, the U.S. has freedom of religion and freedom of speech laws that protect such religious activities.
Not only is it illegal in Iran to attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity, it is illegal for Muslims to actually convert, as Abedini did. (See his YouTube video about it here.) Both “crimes” can be punishable by death.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, was a champion for the clergyman’s release, crisscrossing the U.S. to speak at churches and with government officials campaigning for prayer support and for political support to release Abedini. Probably her greatest accomplishment in bringing awareness to the pastor’s imprisonment was when she successfully secured the signatures of 67 lawmakers from around the world requesting Iran to release her husband.
Also, with the assistance from the American Center for Law and Justice, letter writing campaign sent out hundreds of thousands of letters to the United Nations on behalf of Abedini’s release.
Naghmeh announced the news in a simple Facebook post that read, “It is confirmed: Saeed is released!!!”
The long fight is apparently over, and the new battle will most likely begin, getting Saeed back to health again.
Three other Americans held prisoner by Iran were also released as part of the swap, CNN reported: Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, and Nosratollah Khosrawi. Rezaian and Hemati’s confinement were widely reported during their captivity. Details of the Khosrawi case were not known Saturday, CNN reported.