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Wife Works To Free Pastor From Iranian Prison

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Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

Naghmeh Abedini's Iranian-American husband converted from Islam to Christianity 13 years ago. Since then, Saeed Abedini has made many trips to Iran, most recently to build an orphanage.

But he was detained by Iranian authorities in 2012. "We were working with [the government]" on the orphanage, Naghmeh Abedini tells Martin, "and very unexpectedly, they put him under house arrest, and we were shocked when they took him." In January, he was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of disturbing national security.

Saeed Abedini is serving his sentence at Evin Prison, which his wife calls "one of the most horrific prisons in the world." Some prisoners are allowed to call their families several times a week, but he is not granted that liberty. His parents visit weekly, though, and are able to speak with him about how he's faring.

He has told his family he has lost some of his eyesight and memory after time spent in solitary. He has also endured beatings, and, says Naghmeh Abedini, "was told he would be released if he would deny his Christian faith and return to Islam."

Still, he continues to proselytize to his fellow inmates. "He sees hopeless people in that prison," says Naghmeh Abedini. "And I know the only thing Saeed can offer them is his faith, his hope that there's a god and they can have a relationship with god, despite where they're at."

And Naghmeh Abedini believe she is close to finding a way to bring her husband home. She was recently able to hand-deliver a letter Saeed Abedini wrote to a delegate for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and President Obama also asked about him in a call with Rouhani. "These are very hopeful signs," she says. "I don't give my kids a timeline, but I'm very hopeful that we would see him home soon."

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