Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated that imprisoned American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini will not be released until the U.S. releases 19 Iranian hostages.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, has denounced President Rouhani’s ultimatum, stating that, “My husband is not collateral. He is a father and a man who broke no law. Yet Iran is treating him like a pawn in a game of chess. President Rouhani’s demand that America release 19 criminals in exchange for his consideration of releasing individuals like my husband, imprisoned solely for his faith, demonstrates that the Iran of today is no different than the Iran who took Americans hostage during the Iranian revolution.”
The Christian Post states that Rouhani has been pressured from leaders around the world to free Abedini.
“If the Americans take the appropriate steps and set [a number of Iranians in the United States who are imprisoned] free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well,” Rouhani said.
Naghmeh Abedini has also been active in working for her husband’s release by sending a letter to Rouhani, requesting the help of world leaders such as Pope Francis, and by inviting others to join her in fasting and prayer for her husband’s release.
Abedini has been imprisoned for three years, serving an eight-year sentence. He is in a dangerous Iranian prison where he has been beaten and denied the medical attention he needs.
The American Center for Law and Justice which is representing the Abedini family has called Rouhani’s demands “absurd and insulting,” accusing Iran of treating Abedini as a “hostage for ransom.”