The release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban on May 31 has renewed hope for the release of American prisoner Saeed Abedini from Iranian prison.
Pastor Abedini was arrested in September 2012 for allegedly trying to convert Iranians to Christianity. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2013.
Abedini, who became a Christian in 2000, maintains that he traveled to his native country to help build a state-run orphanage, not to convert Muslims to Christianity. He has been beaten by inmates and guards while incarcerated, and was temporarily transferred to a hospital after suffering internal injuries from the assaults.
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, said that the release of Bergdahl and the public's current interest in global human rights violations will hopefully lead to her husband's release.
"I hope that our government takes this issue, this religious freedom issue, this human rights issue, seriously and that Iran gets the message that this is an important issue to us and Saeed needs to be release unconditionally and released immediately," she told On Your Side.
Sgt. Bergdahl was released over a week ago after being held captive by the Taliban for over five years in Afghanistan. The 28-year-old walked away from his unit on June 30, 2009, according to "incontrovertible" Pentagon reports. Bergdahl, who was a private first class when he was captured, e-mailed his parents days before his desertion expressing disillusionment with America, the War on Terror, and his military service. He was returned to U.S. custody in exchange for the controversial release of five senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay.
The catalyst for Bergdahl's release was his poor health, and Naghmeh hopes that similar consideration will be given for Saeed's condition.
"A few weeks ago they took him from the hospital and put him back in prison and the way they took him, they beat him again," she said. "So he's been continually beaten the last two years and he has internal bleeding issues and health problems."
On Your Side also noted that both Bergdahl and Abedini are from Idaho.