The wife of an American Christian jailed in Iran called on President Obama to demand her husband's release Thursday, the 444th day of his captivity, and to link the Iranian nuclear deal to his freedom.
Naghmeh Abedini told a House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing that she feels abandoned because Obama administration officials have failed to publicly call for the release of her husband, the Rev. Saeed Abedini, a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Mrs. Abedini said she is "thankful" that Mr. Obama expressed "concern" for her husband when he talked by phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September, but she was "devastated" to learn that Mr. Obama did not demand his release as a condition for negotiating a relaxation of economic sanctions on Iran as part of a six-month nuclear deal.
"My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He is suffering because he is an American," she said. "Yet his own government ... has abandoned him."
The length of his imprisonment Thursday equals that of 52 Americans held by Iranian militants at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran from Nov. 4, 1979, to Jan. 20, 1981, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president.
Mr. Abedini, an Iranian-born Christian convert from Islam, was arrested Sept. 26, 2012, while visiting Iran with Iranian government permission to continue his earlier work at an orphanage in the city of Rasht on the Caspian Sea.
He and his wife had lived in Iran, where they established about 100 underground churches for Christian converts, until 2005 — when former President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad began persecuting unauthorized house churches. They fled to the United States and settled in Boise, Idaho.
Mr. Abedini initially was jailed in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, where he was tortured repeatedly. On Nov. 3, Iran transferred him to Rajai Shahr prison, where he is surrounded by murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.
"The Iranian regime sends prisoners to Rajai Shahr to disappear," she said. "It sends prisoners to Rajai Shahr to die."
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