Saeed Abedini Describes Prison Torture, Praying 20 Hours a Day in First Interview

(Photo: Reuters/Congressman Robert Pittenger/Handout)Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho is pictured with Congressman Robert Pittenger at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, in this undated handout photo provided by Congressman Robert Pittenger, on January 20, 2016. Abedini, 35, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who was setting up an orphanage in Iran in 2012 when he was detained, was released on Sunday in a prisoner swap following the lifting of most international sanctions against Iran under a deal to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
(Photo: Reuters/Ben Klayman)Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of naturalized U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini who was detained in Iran in 2012, is pictured in the home of her parents in West Boise, Idaho, January 20, 2016. Abedini is looking forward to reuniting next week with her husband, Saeed, the Iranian-American pastor freed on Saturday after more than three years in an Iranian prison. But she's not rushing the reunion. Picture taken January 20, 2016.
(Photo: Fox News Insider video screencap)Greta Van Susteren interview with Saeed Abedini, the Christian pastor who was freed from Iran in January 2016.
of

Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American citizen who was released from prison in Iran earlier this month, has opened up about the torture he suffered while in captivity and his constant prayer to God in his first post-release interview.

Abedini told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that interrogators tried to get him to sign confession papers to crimes he didn't commit during his more than three years in prison, but he refused each time.

"In interrogation, once they beat me very badly," the pastor said, noting how one beating caused him stomach bleeding. He was also threatened of being beaten to death, and told that even after his release, he would still be followed closely.

Abedini is resting and meeting with family members at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina following his release from prison and return to the U.S., which was secured following a prisoner exchange with Iran.

The pastor had been the subject of major international campaigns calling for his freedom, with persecution watchdog groups and world leaders, such as President Barack Obama, urging Iran to release him.

Abedini says that he was imprisoned for his Christian faith, though he said the Iranian government continues to claim he was punished for "using Christianity to try and remove the government."

The Boise, Idaho-based pastor revealed that one of the hardest things about jail was finding how to spend the time, given than prison guards did not give him books or anything at all to keep him engaged.

He said in the interview that "each day for hours and hours, sometimes more than 20 hours, I just prayed."

"The best thing I could do over there was [pray]," he added.

Abedini revealed that one thing that helped was when he was transferred to the same jail cell as former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati.

"When they sent me to the other solitary — which Amir Hekmati, the Marine, was over there," he added. "They bound my eyes, they took me to his room, and up in there, I think, for almost 60 days with Amir."

"First, when I removed my eye band, and I saw Amir, I got very heartbroken to see what they did to our Marine," Abedini noted, explaining that Hekmati was very thin and weak.

Susteren said that more of her conversation with Abedini will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who was one of the leading voices calling for the pastor's release, said in a statement last week that no one in America can "begin to understand or appreciate what Saeed has endured after being imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith."

"We want to provide him a quiet place to rest and visit with family," he added, referring to Abedini's stay at the Billy Graham Training Center.