American businessman Donald Trump criticized President Barack Obama's failure to negotiate with Iran for the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini. The pastor's wife, Naghmeh, expressed her gratitude toward Trump.
"I am very happy to hear that he is doing this, because this is the first example of anyone outside of the legal and political areas speaking out. I hope that more people like him will speak out," Naghmeh Abedini told WND.com.
"I would very much like to meet him and thank him for what he has done in bringing awareness to this issue," she added. "Every voice counts and especially voices like Mr. Trump's. I'm just thankful he's using his voice to speak out against this injustice."
Trump has recently been tweeting about the controversial deal the U.S. struck with Iran, which provides over $7 billion in relief from international sanctions for the Islamic Republic in return for temporary freezing its nuclear program. The businessman denounced Obama for not making Abedini's release part of the deal.
"Mr. President, tell Iran to immediately free the Christian pastor, as a sign of good faith, & if they refuse break off talks--big sanctions," Trump posted on his official Twitter account on Wednesday.
"How does Obama rationalize giving Iran $8B in sanction relief when a Christian pastor is being tortured in an Iranian prison?" the billionaire asked in another post.
Trump's point has been argued by the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh and the couple's two children in the U.S. and has led an international campaign calling for the American citizen's release.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, said in a statement following the nuke deal that the U.S. government "betrayed" Abedini after failing to make his release a precondition for the deal.
"President Obama and Secretary of State [John] Kerry turned their backs on a U.S. citizen by refusing to secure his freedom before reaching an agreement with Iran. It is outrageous and a betrayal of American Pastor Saeed Abedini who has spent more than a year in an Iranian prison simply because of his Christian faith," Sekulow said.
Abedini is currently serving eight years in prison in Iran for his Christian faith. And despite Obama speaking with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the phone about the case, Iranian officials have refused to let him go free. Abedini was recently moved to a new prison – the dangerous and overcrowded Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, where political prisoners are sometimes sent to "disappear."
As Naghmeh Abedini and her family face the holiday season without Saeed, the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, has started an initiative encouraging American families to leave an empty dinner place on Thanksgiving Day for the pastor as a sign of solidarity.
"While Americans enjoy the blessings of spending Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that millions around the world are being brutalized, persecuted and attacked for their Christian faith. Thousands are in prison," Mahoney said.
"Pastor Saeed will not be able to spend this special day with his wife and two young children, but instead will be spending it in a cramped prison facing constant violence and persecution."