A Boise pastor who was held in an Iranian prison for more than three years has serious medical issues and may need several days of treatment before he is reunited with his family, his wife told the Statesman Monday.
Saeed Abedini, 35, was one of five prisoners released by Iran over the weekend. During his incarceration, he reportedly suffered severe beatings.
Abedini is currently being examined and treated at U.S. Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger will be part of a welcoming group meeting Abedini in Germany.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said she won’t be meeting her husband in Germany. But she has spoken with him on the phone, she said.
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After he receives medical treatment, he will be flown to a facility on the East Coast.
“The kids and I will meet him there to take time to heal and readjust and work on our marriage,” Naghmeh Abedini said, noting that the family is moving toward a time of much-need privacy. The couple have two children, Rebekka, 9, and Jacob, 7.
Pittenger, an evangelical Christian who began working for Saeed Abedini’s release in September 2013, flew to Germany on Sunday after he learned that Abedini was one of four Americans to be freed as the final pieces of the Iran nuclear deal fell into place. But by Monday night, Pittenger hadn’t seen Abedini, and the congressman was uncertain when they might meet.
“It was a long journey to get him from an Iranian prison to freedom,” Pittenger told McClatchy. “But as is the case with all former hostages, it’s a longer journey back to an old life. Here, he’s taking the first step of another long journey. It’s a very challenging recovery.”
Pittenger said he did not expect to meet with Abedini for another day or two.
He said he received an account that Abedini appears to be in good shape physically, but his mental and emotional state after a long period of brutality is much more complicated, and will take some time to figure out
Pittenger told the media Nagmeh Abedini is expected to arrive in Germany by Wednesday and that he believed she should meet with the pastor before he did, but Nagmeh confirmed to the Statesman Monday night that she does not plan to go to Germany.
He said the military doctors suspect the initial phase of Abedini’s “re-assimilation” will take five to 10 days.
Naghmeh Abedini’s tireless advocacy for the release of her husband included a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2013 and meeting President Barack Obama during his Boise visit last year.
The news of Saeed’s release was a happy surprise, she said. She woke her children at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to tell them the news.
“The children are excited. They’re beside themselves,” she told the Idaho Statesman this weekend. “They keep asking me, ‘When are we going to see him?’”
Saeed Abedini was released as part of a prisoner swap. The other Americans released were Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose name had not been previously made public, according to the Associated Press. A fifth American detained in Iran, Matthew Trevithick, was released in a move unrelated to the swap, U.S. officials said.
Abedini has been held by Iranian authorities since September of 2012, when he was in his native Iran to build an orphanage. He was sentenced in January of 2013 to serve eight years in prison for Christian proselytizing. He was previously arrested in 2009 and released after promising to stop organizing churches in homes.
The U.S. imposed new sanctions on Iran after the prisoner swap Saturday due to violations of United Nations resolutions against ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions are mostly aimed at individuals and some small companies accused of shipping crucial technologies to Iran, including carbon fiber and missile parts that can survive re-entry, according to the New York Times News Service.