IRAN — American pastor Saeed Abedini and three other prisoners have been released from prison in Iran, according to news reports. Abedini was detained in 2012 for organizing house churches and later sentenced to eight years in prison.
The 35-year-old pastor suffered beatings and harsh punishment during three-and-a-half years in prison in Iran, where he had been held due to his Christian faith.
The release reportedly comes as part of a prisoner swap coinciding with the Jan. 16 implementation of a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers brokered in July 2015. The U.S. has released seven Iranian-Americans charged with violating sanctions, according to an Iranian news agency.
Abedini’s wife Naghmeh rejoiced on her Facebook page shortly after news reports came in: “It is confirmed: Saeed is released!”
Mrs. Abedini and their children Rebekkah and Jacob were scheduled to arrive at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville early the afternoon of Jan. 25 to spend at least a week with Saeed before returning as a family to their home in Boise, Idaho, she told BP. At the Cove, they will rest and receive counseling, she said.
“This has been an answer to prayer,” she said in a report released by the American Center for Law and Justice. “This is a critical time for me and my family. We look forward to Saeed’s return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time.”
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a statement released to Baptist Press, “We are rejoicing and praising God over the release of Saeed Abedini. We have seen God answer the prayers of His people.”
“We need to continue to pray for other Christians who are being persecuted around the world,” noted Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
“Simultaneously, we must continue to pray for the advancement of the gospel across Iran, the Middle East, and all across the world.”