Saeed Abedini: Freedom is like 'being born again'

Pastor Saeed Abedini has said his release feels like "being born again" as he returns to the US today.

Pastor Saeed Abedini with his two children before he was imprisoned in Iran.(ACLJ)

The Iranian-born pastor who converted to Christianity from Islam was sentenced to eight years in jail in Iran in 2012. He was released on January 16 this year as part of a prisoner swap.

"Today was like my first day of my life, so... I was born again," Abedini told attorney Jay Sekulow, who has worked for his release on behalf of the American Centre for Law and Justice.

Freedom is like "being born again, again," he said in a phone call.

Abedini has been staying in Germany since his release but is expected to return to America today.

His family have been warned that although he is physically in good health, his mental and emotional wellbeing has suffered.

"It was a long journey to get him from an Iranian prison to freedom," said Robert Pittenger, a US Congressman who has campaigned for Abedini's freedom. "But as is the case with all former hostages, it's a longer journey back to an old life. Here, he's taking the first step of another long journey. It's a very challenging recovery."

"His kids want their daddy back," said Pittenger. "But their daddy is a different man than he was when he went inside that prison."

Although those considered to be 'ethnic Christians', such as Armenians or Assyrians, are allowed to practice their faith in Iran, the government is especially intolerant of those who convert to Christianity from Islam and converts are forbidden from praying in public churches. This is thought to be one reason why Abedini, a former Muslim, was dealt with harshly.

Listen to Abedini speaking to Sekulow below: