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Wife Of Pastor Jailed In Iran Skeptical Of Possible Prisoner Swap


At the United Nations, Iran's president has come and gone, and there's been no movement on the fate of three jailed Americans. The Iranians have been holding out the possibility of a prisoner swap, but that offers little comfort to the wife of a jailed Iranian-American pastor. NPR's Michele Kelemen has the story.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Nagmeh Abedini came to this year's United Nations General Assembly in hopes of reaching someone in the Iranian delegation to raise the case of her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini. The Iranians ignored her even though she says U.S. officials had indicated they'd hoped for a better atmosphere following the nuclear deal with Iran.

NAGMEH ABEDINI: Things are not as they had hoped, and things are not going very well with, you know, Saeed and the others. And I know my husband's been even put under more pressure. And again last week, he was Tasered. He was abused, and he was interrogated intensely and told he would be given additional charges and years in prison.

KELEMEN: He's been in jail for three years now. He gets visits from his parents in Iran but hasn't seen his children since June of 2012.

ABEDINI: We met with President Obama in January. He was in Boise, and my son asked him to help get his daddy home for his birthday which was in March. And President Obama said, I will try, Jacob; I will try very hard. And it was heartbreaking because on his birthday, he woke up expecting to see his dad released. He thought, you know, it's going to happen.

KELEMEN: The outgoing U.S. negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, says she raises this case whenever she can, also calling for the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and former Marine Amir Hekmati as well as information about a missing former FBI agent.

WENDY SHERMAN: I really, really believe it is way past time for them to come home and for Iran to help us to find Robert Levinson and bring him home.

KELEMEN: Iranian officials point out that the U.S. is holding some Iranians on sanctions violations, hinting of a possible swap. That doesn't give Nagmeh Abedini hope. She's frustrated by this.

ABEDINI: Them suggesting a prisoner exchange for people who've broken laws versus my husband who hasn't and also that they they're not even promising that that would happen - I don't trust it until Saeed's on American soil.

KELEMEN: And though she couldn't make her case to Iranian officials in person, she says at least they know she's here. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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