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Detainee's Wife On His Release From Iranian Prison: 'It's Amazing News'


Among the Americans released today is pastor Saeed Abedini. He has been held in Iran since 2012, sentenced to eight years in prison for Christian proselytizing. Saeed Abedeni is 35 years old. He's from Boise, Idaho, and he is a convert from Islam to Christianity. We reached his wife Naghmeh in Idaho today. Mrs. Abedini, thank you so much for speaking with us.

NAGHMEH ABEDINI: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: It must have been - it must continue to be such an emotional day. I can't even imagine. But can you just sort of describe what's going through your mind right now?

ABEDINI: It's a good emotional, and the last three and a half years have been very hard emotional. And it's a good - it's amazing news to get early in the morning, and to be able to finally have an answer to my kids' question of when it is daddy coming home? And I was able to finally tell them he's coming home soon.

MARTIN: May I ask how you learned that he was going to be released?

ABEDINI: Interesting enough, through Iranian media has said that the Americans were released. And after it broke out on the Iranian media, I got a call from State Department saying that it was true, that Saeed and the other Americans were at the Swiss embassy and that they were being transported to the airport. As far as I know, since in the last hour, they're still on Iranian soil, and they're trying to leave the airport. There seems to be something holding them back, but we're hoping he'll be out of Iranian territory within the next few hours.

MARTIN: You have not yet been able to speak with him?

ABEDINI: No. Once - once he is out of Iran, he will be flown into Switzerland by a Swiss airplane. And there will be a quick change of planes there, and he will be brought to Germany. And once he's there, there's evaluations and certain things that he will be going through with our government. And that is when I will get a phone call, so it could be much later tonight when I first get to talk to him.

MARTIN: You wrote a piece for The Post back in October, and it was a fairly - I don't want to say despairing piece, but it seemed as though you were giving up hope at that time. Is that true? Did you - were you starting to feel that there was not going to be a positive resolution here?

ABEDINI: Not giving up hope, but I was - I had - I came to peace with - that this could be a few more years. And when I came to peace with that and just let go and focused on my kids and my own healing is when he's released. So the least-expected time I could've ever imagined during my travels or - I don't know, when I was advocating all the time - is when it would've happened.

MARTIN: Well, I was going to ask you about that because you have become, on your husband's behalf, one of the kind of higher-profile advocates around the whole question of religious freedom. You did seem to withdraw from public advocacy for a period of time. And I did want to ask why was that? Was it because of the toll of the traveling?

ABEDINI: It was. That was a big part of it. There was also a lot of personal issues, although I am very proud of my husband for having stood his faith regardless of the pressures in the last three years. The truth is there's some very serious issues that will need to be dealt with once he's home and our family will need to sure the last three years. The truth is there are some very serious issues that will need to be dealt with once he's home, and our family will need to, you know, step into a road of healing and reconciliation. And Saeed's - I'm a different person, he's a different person, and I don't know where he's at physically, mentally, what has happened in the last three years and where he's at as a person. And just our family will have to go through a lot of transition.

MARTIN: How old are the kids now, if you don't mind my asking?

ABEDINI: Rebecca is - Rebecca is 9 and Jacob is 7.

MARTIN: So it's been - that's a long time in kids' lives. How did they the react to be separated from a parent? How did they react when you told them that he was - had been released or was going to be released?

ABEDINI: You know, it's half their lifetime. And for them, it seemed like - you know, it seemed like a long time. They were just jumping up and down, rejoicing. And they're making a welcome home sign right now as we speak.

MARTIN: How are you doing?

ABEDINI: It's been a busy day, but I'm good. You know, it's a good surprise. The battle is over and now we can focus on the next journey as a family and healing and transition. And at least that first huge hurdle's over. And God is bigger than the next hurdle. And we will move forward as a family.

MARTIN: You've kind of suggested to us that your period as a public person is coming to an end. Is there something there - before you kind of withdrawal into your private life - is there something you would wish for us to know about what it's like to go through something like this that perhaps we might not know?

ABEDINI: The biggest thing I've learned is all of us go through turmoil either caused by circumstances or people. And I've learned to be happy and at peace no matter the circumstance and find that strength in God. And I know that Saeed has grown a lot, too, in his faith. And so it will be a period of transition.

MARTIN: Well, our very best to you, and thank you so much for speaking with us and thank you for taking the time on this very special and important day in your life and our very best wishes to you and to your family.

ABEDINI: Thank you so much. I appreciate your - your call.

MARTIN: That was Naghmeh Abedini. She learned today that her husband Saeed was one of the American prisoners released from Iran, and we were able to reach her today in Boise, Idaho. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.