Barack Obama says release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini is 'top priority'

Saeed Abedini with his children prior to his imprisonment

President Obama yesterday promised the family of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini that his release was a "top priority" for the Administration.

Following a private meeting with the President, Saeed's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, said Obama was "focused and gracious – showing concern to me and my children".

"I am extremely thankful the President took the time to meet with our family and told us that securing the release of my husband is a top priority," she said.

"I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed's release. The President repeated his desire to do all that he can to bring Saeed home. That means the world to me and my children and has given me a renewed sense of hope."

Naghmeh told The Blaze that the 10-minute meeting was "emotional" and that she felt there was a real "heart connection" with the President as he heard her husband's story.

"As much as I needed to see him to make it more personal, I think it had the effect where he saw us and we weren't just a news story," she said.

"We are a family torn apart. I could see compassion in his eyes."

The Abedini's two young children were also present, and 6-year-old Jacob asked Obama to bring his father home before his next birthday on March 17.

"I don't know if I can do it that quick[ly]. I will try," the President responded.

"I could see in his eyes that he's a dad and for him to see that that's what Jacob wants – it was a really emotional moment," Naghmeh said. She had fasted and prayed for three days prior to Obama's visit to her hometown of Boise, Idaho, in the hopes that he would meet with her.

"[I told him] this meeting was set up by God and he smiled and he nodded," she said. She is now planning, on the President's recommendation, to meet with Ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Rabbi David Saperstein.

"It's definitely encouraged me more and made me more hopeful and at the same time...Let's see what happens," she said. "The sceptic in me is also watching to see where are they going to go after this meeting...How soon can they get him home?"

Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the Abedini family, Jordan Sekulow has expressed his gratitude following the meeting.

"Pastor Saeed has been wrongly imprisoned for nearly two and a half years. He has been separated from his wife and children. The pain experienced by the Abedini family is impossible to imagine," Sekulow said in a statement.

"The meeting between President Obama and the Abedini family is a very welcomed development. It demonstrates the President's concern and compassion for this family. It also underscores the importance of Pastor Saeed's case, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran merely because of his Christian faith.

"The face-to-face meeting elevates Pastor Saeed's plight on the world stage – and should send a powerful message to the Iranians – it is time to release Pastor Saeed so he can return home to his family."

Pastor Saeed is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran for "threatening the security of the state".

Naghmeh has repeatedly challenged the US government to speak up for her husband, and has criticised the administration's failure to respond with the urgency called for by campaigners. "I thought I would have to fight the Iranian government. I never anticipated that I would have to battle my own government," she said during a 2013 congressional hearing in Washington.