Joel Hunter pleads with Iranian officials to release Saeed Abedini

Pastor Saeed Abedini with his family(Photo: ACLJ via YouTube)

It's a difficult time for Saeed Abedini as he remains incarcerated in an Iranian prison serving an 8-year sentence for supposedly undermining national security.

While he remains behind bars in Iran, his wife Naghmeh and supporters back in the US, where Abedini normally resides, have been campaigning relentlessly for his release.

They include Northland pastor Joel Hunter, who recently raised the US-Iranian pastor's plight with officials during a visit to Iran.  

According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Hunter told BBC Persia that one of the main objectives of the trip was to create a "different environment" in Iran around religious freedoms.  

Part of the discussions included Abedini's imprisonment and Hunter said he "specifically" mentioned his case.

"It was because of this dialogue that we were able to ask the Iranian government for clemency for him and we were able to bring this up with the right person and in the right environment," he told BBC Persia.

"This opportunity was provided to us by the Iranians themselves and it did not happen because of any pressure from us.  In general, these dialogues help these prisoners a lot." 

The ACLJ is continuing to work closely with Naghmeh Abedini on her husband's release.  They welcomed Hunter's efforts and said it "sends an important message to Iran".

Naghmeh Abedini said the development was "very encouraging" and that she remained "hopeful" that the US would continue to raise her husband's case with Iran. 

"We continue to pray for his freedom. I want to thank the many people who continue to keep Saeed and our family in prayer. That continues to provide tremendous strength and support for our family," she said.