UPDATE: This post has been revised to reflect new accounts of Naghmeh's encounter with President Rouhani's delegation.
Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, hand-delivered a letter to the Iranian president's UN delegation urging her husband’s freedom today.
The encounter occurred as Naghmeh was participating in an interview in the lobby of a New York hotel where she is staying. As it turns out, the Iranian delegation is also staying at the same hotel.
As Naghmeh was talking with a reporter, the Iranian delegation – with President Hassan Rouhani – walked through the lobby toward the elevators.
Naghmeh approached the delegation and attempted to introduce herself to President Rouhani as the elevator doors were closing. Speaking in Farsi, she was able to tell members of the president's delegation about her husband who is imprisoned in Evin Prison because of his faith and urged his release. She told the Iranian president’s delegation she wanted to deliver a letter that Pastor Saeed had written to the president pleading for his release.
A member of President Rouhani’s detail accepted Pastor Saeed’s letter from Naghmeh and said he would deliver it to President Rouhani.
And just a few hours after that encounter, Naghmeh spoke with another member of the Iranian president's UN delegation in the same hotel lobby and delivered Saeed's letter to her as well.
We are hopeful that President Rouhani will quickly act for Pastor Saeed’s release as he has done for other prisoners of conscience in Iran in recent days.
There are new reports today that Iran announced the release 80 prisoners of conscience as he departed Iran for the United States ahead of an appearance at the United Nations.
Unfortunately, it appears that Pastor Saeed was not among those reportedly released. We can confirm that Pastor Saeed's family in Tehran saw him today during regular visitation hours, and as of noon Tehran time, he was still imprisoned and the family has not been notified that his status has changed.
While the release of these prisoners of conscience is a welcomed humanitarian gesture from the new Iranian regime, Iran must release Pastor Saeed Abedini – a U.S. citizen – wrongly imprisoned for his faith. This week, Thursday, September 26th, is the one-year mark of the imprisonment of Pastor Saeed, who recently wrote his daughter a letter for her birthday.
If Iran’s new president wants the American people and the international community to believe he is a true reformer, he must release Pastor Saeed. As long as prisoners of conscience, including a U.S. citizen, suffer torment in Iranian prison, President Rouhani’s claims of change will remain unsubstantiated.
President Rouhani is clearly seeking international approval. He is listening. And now he has Pastor Saeed’s letter.
Now is the time to speak with one voice. Already, more than 80,000 letters have been written to Iran’s new president through the ACLJ’s #BeHeard Project website. Join one of the largest letter-writing campaigns in history and urge Pastor Saeed’s freedom today.