Pastor Saeed Abedini May be Released in Prisoner Exchange with U.S.

On his last trip to New York City to attend U.N. General Assembly, President Hassan Rouhani said there is a possibility for trading Iranian prisoners in the U.S. for American prisoners in Iran.

Mohabat News – In his interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour on September 27, President Rouhani stated that if the U.S. shows willingness to release Iranian prisoners, he will do all in his power to ensure the speedy release of U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran.

In a similar report, AFP quoted Mr. Rouhani as saying, nothing would make him happier than to see this exchange of prisoners realized.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, along with Jason Rezaeian and Amir Hekmati are three American citizens imprisoned in Iran. In addition to these three prisoners, there is another U.S. citizen by the name of Robert Levinson, who is

believed to be in captivity in Iran. He disappeared during a trip to Kish Island in 2007.
While U.S. officials believe Iran knows about Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, the Iranian government denied any involvement with this incident.

Saeed Abedini is an Iranian-American pastor who was arrested two and a half years ago and sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening Iran’s national security by establishing house-churches in the country.

Read more: Pastor Abedini’s Wife Seeks to Visit Iranian President

Another American prisoner in Iran, Jason Rezaeian is a Washington Post correspondent accused of spying for the U.S. government. Mr. Rezaeian’s last hearing was held on August 10, 2015. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Iranian court has issued its ruling but has not announced it publicly yet.

Amir Hekmati is the other U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran. He was arrested during his trip to Iran to visit his relatives in August 2011. Later he was charged with spying. Iranian officials claimed he was trained in Iraq and Afghanistan to spy on Iran. The United States’ last call for Mr. Hekmati came last August during John Kerry’s remarks on the fourth anniversary of his arrest.

President Rouhani’s remarks on the possible exchange of prisoners is not the first occurrence of the topic. The fate of American prisoners in Iran was also discussed during John Kerry’s meeting with Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister.

John Kerry and Javad Zarif met one day before President Rouhani’s interview with CNN.
Regarding this visit, John Kirby, spokesman for the Department of State said “Mr. Kerry expressed our concern regarding American prisoners in Iran and asked for their release”.

German-language Spiegel Online also reported that John Kerry has confirmed talking to Iran about a prisoner exchange on multiple occasions.

In the meantime, Iran is also making every diplomatic effort to pressure the U.S. into releasing its citizens. Last August, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the U.S. to ensure the speedy release of imprisoned Iranian citizens.