01/19/2016 – Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – UPDATE – US citizen and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, was freed late Friday night after the United States and Iran announced a prisoner swap in continuance of the landmark nuclear deal that was reached between the P5 + Germany and Iran in July of 2015. At the time of writing, the prisoners were released approximately 20 hours ago before the implementation of the deal, which would release Iranian funds held through various sanctions.
Pastor Saeed was among five US citizens that held dual citizenship with Iran. Pastor Saeed, an Iranian native who converted to Christianity, was arrested in 2012 on charges of attempting to “undermine the Iranian government” and sentenced to eight years. Other charges against Pastor Saeed included “attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam” and creating house churches. Abedini has undergone torture and harsh conditions as recent as June of 2015. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, has worked for years to secure his release while taking care of their two children in the United States.
Also released from Iranian custody was Amir Hekmati, arrested in 2011 on a trip to visit his grandmother, Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter arrested in 2014 on charges of espionage, and Nosratollah Khosrawi-Roodsari (details on Khosrawi’s charges and situation remain unconfirmed). Finally, Iran also released Matthew Trevithick separately from the first four. Having been detained in Iran for 40 days after entering to take part in an intensive Persian (Farsi) language course, Trevithick departed Iran before the other four. As of Saturday evening, four of the prisoners were still inside the borders of Iran and the plane had not departed for Switzerland.
In exchange for Iran’s prisoner release, the US has agreed to release or drop charges against seven Iranian-Americans who had been held in US prison. Additionally, the US has agreed to drop Interpol arrest warrants (known as “red notices”) against several Iranian fugitives accused of crimes against US citizens.
Tehran’s prosecutor released a statement citing the approval of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in the decision to free the US prisoners. In addition, the US will drop its efforts to extradite fourteen Iranians for alleged involvement in the purchase of US arms for transfer to Iran and other various allegations.
Due to several confirmed reports of torture, beatings, and poor healthcare in the Iranian prison, officials announced that the four freed US citizens will be flown from Iran to Switzerland, on a Swiss plane, and then taken to a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for medical treatment. Pastor Saeed’s wife, Nagmeh Abedini spoke last September of how Iranian intelligence officers repeatedly used Taser electric shock guns on Pastor Saeed and then denied medical attention for the injuries he sustained from the beatings of officials and other inmates.
We still have no word on when Saeed Abedini may return home to his family in Boise after his release from prison in Iran. However, former CIA agent Mike Baker says that it is the federal government’s goal to get him here as soon as possible. Baker says Abedini is going through medical and psychological evaluations and will get the treatment he needs in Germany. Baker says there’s much more questioning and counseling that happens as well.
The newly released Americans who were held prisoners in Iran are getting assessed medically and easing back into the rhythms and relationships of normal life at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, reports CBS News correspondent Liz Palmer.
It is not yet known how long the newly released Americans will stay at the hospital, but history suggests between a week and ten days. Nagmeh Abedini has called for prayer in her reunion with her husband after so many years apart. According to military officials and former CIA operatives, Pastor Saeed will endure a long recovery process for his physical and psychological states.
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