Nagmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini has cancelled plans to pray in front of the White House during a March protest of her husband’s detention. She announced her decision the same day her lawyers revealed Abedini has been moved to a less dangerous wing of the Iranian prison where he’s being held.
The March protest, spearheaded by Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, is an effort to pressure President Barack Obama to help secure Abedini’s release from an Iranian prison. Since protesting on White House grounds is illegal, the action likely would have resulted in Nagmeh Abedini’s arrest.
“After further prayer and counsel, I have determined it is not in the best interest of Saeed and our family for me to participate in the March 8th event that would have resulted in my arrest,” she wrote on the “Pray for Pastor Saeed” Facebook page. “As a mother of two who has been without my husband and father of our two children for more than a year now, I will continue to focus on doing everything I can...to secure [his] freedom.”
President Obama has yet to speak with Nagmeh. Last September he reportedly spoke with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about various issues, including the pastor’s imprisonment. That same week, Nagmeh crossed paths with Rouhani, who was in New York to attend a United Nations meeting, and rushed to give a letter to his aide. She called the encounter an answer to prayer. A few months later, she was disappointed when Congress failed to advocate for her husband during negotiations with Iran in December. “I had anticipated that I would battle the Iranian government to release my husband,” she told WORLD. “I didn’t expect to battle with my own government.”
The same day Naghmeh announced her change of plans, the American Center for Law and Justice announced that her husband had been moved from Rajai Shahr Prison's ward for murderers and violent criminals to one for political prisoners. The law firm, which represents Nagmeh, said it was a hopeful move but also highlighted Abedini’s poor health. “Make no mistake; Pastor Saeed is still in the deadliest prison in Iran facing deteriorating medical conditions,” the organization said in a statement. “This is the first positive step, however slight, since his transfer from Evin Prison last November.”
Iranian officials arrested Abedini, 34, in 2012 while he was visiting an orphanage in the country and sentenced him to eight years in prison. Although the Iranian government claims Saeed is a threat to national security, Nagmeh told the UN last June, “Iran has kept Saeed imprisoned because he believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for forgiveness of sin and to reconcile humanity to God.”