Obama calls for release of jailed Pastor Saeed Abedini

Pastor Saeed Abedini is being held in an Iranian prison.(Photo: ACLJ file)

Pastor Saeed Abedini must be released from his imprisonment in Iran, said US president Barack Obama yesterday.

Obama used the Iranian Nowruz holiday to make a plea for the release of US citizens detained or missing in Iran. Of Abedini he said: "Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father."

He also referred to Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan who he said had been imprisoned on false espionage charges for over three and a half years, Jason Rezaian of Marin County, California, held for nearly eight months on "vague charges", and Robert Levinson, who went missing on Kish Island more than eight years ago.

"The spirit of family is deeply woven into all of the rich cultural traditions of the Nowruz holiday," he said. "It is a time for reuniting and rejoicing with loved ones and sharing hopes for the new year. Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran."