After languishing in an Iranian prison for three years, Pastor Saeed Abedini could hardly believe his luck when he was finally freed.
He said he never expected the U.S. government to pay ransom to secure his freedom since there is a federal policy forbidding the government from paying such ransom, which would eventually be used to finance terror groups, enabling them to "torture thousands more people, maybe hundreds of thousands."
But Abedini revealed in an op-ed piece for Fox News that ransom payment was indeed made as he left Iran, saying that "$400 million in cash...was loaded on the 'other' airplane."
Abedini said he was also surprised that he and the other released prisoners were first flown to Germany, not the U.S., to seek medical treatment.
The pastor also revealed that he paid for his own plane ticket from Germany to the United States. "I was informed when our flight from Iran landed in Germany that I would have to buy my own plane ticket back to the U.S.," he said. "They didn't even intend on helping me get home. Without the kindness of friends like the Rev. Franklin Graham, I would have been stranded in Germany. In spite of all I had experienced, I felt completely dispensable."
"How could so many people go to such great lengths, including [an] airplane full of $400 million in cash, and yet a plane ticket home for me was, as I was told, 'not in the budget?'" Abedini asked.
It was then that he realised that he was nothing more than a pawn in the the "much larger political game" between the U.S. and Iran. "And once that process was over, well, I nearly had to buy my own plane ticket home," he said, even though he and his family were "virtually homeless."
Abedini said it's difficult for him to truly appreciate his freedom because he knows it will negatively impact other Iranian prisoners. "Now for the rest of my life I will wonder if my freedom has made it financially possible for Iran to abuse and imprison countless others — those like me who reject their radical theology and dictatorial oppression," he said.
Abedini hopes his revelations would not make him appear like an ingrate, saying that he is extremely grateful for his freedom.
However, as a Christian, the pastor said he was actually willing and ready to die for his faith in Iran without letting anybody else suffer.
He vowed that for the rest of his life, he will stand against the Iranian regime and fight anyone who supports the regime's "evil plans."