President Obama Calls For Iran To Release Boise Pastor

Mar 20, 2015

In the midst of an unexpected break in Iranian nuclear talks, President Barack Obama is calling for the return of Americans held in Iran, including Boise pastor Saeed Abedini.

In a message commemorating the Persian New Year, Obama says it's a time for families to be reunited.

He says Iran should immediately release U.S. prisoners Saeed Abedini of Boise; Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan; and Jason Rezaian of Marin County, California. Obama also says Iran should help find Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing eight years ago from the Iranian resort of Kish Island.

In a statement from the White House, Obama said he was calling on Iran to immediately release Abedini and the others.

"Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father." - Barack Obama

Abedini's wife, Naghmeh got a chance to plead her husband's case to the President in person, when Obama visited Boise in January. Abedini was sentenced to an Iranian prison more than two years ago, accused of undermining state security by trying to establish a network of Christian churches in private homes.

Iran and six world powers broke off nuclear negotiations Friday to allow the Iranian delegation to attend the funeral of their president's mother. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement extending condolences to President Hassan Rouhani.

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