The Corner

National Security & Defense

In Prisoner Swap, Iran Frees American Pastor Saeed Abedini and Three Other American Hostages

At long last, four American hostages are coming home from Iran:

Iran freed four U.S. prisoners on Friday, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, senior U.S. administration officials said, confirming reports first published in Iranian media

The release was arranged as part of a prisoner swap involving seven Iranians held by the United States on sanctions charges, the officials confirmed. The deal comes after more than a year of secret negotiations, the officials said . . . The U.S. officials said Iran freed Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, who had been held on various charges. The fourth prisoner was identified by U.S. officials and Iranian media as Nosratollah Khosrawi.

During my years working with the American Center for Law and Justice, I got to know Pastor Saeed’s wife and young children (the ACLJ represents the Abedinis, and without my former colleagues’ tireless work, I believe Saeed would still be in prison), and Pastor Saeed endured an unspeakable ordeal during his captivity. He was abused, threatened, and moved to ever-worse facilities. He battled internal injuries — including internal bleeding — due to Iranian mistreatment, and his only crime was his Christian faith. His family was under immense strain. I agree with Jeffrey Goldberg here:

https://twitter.com/JeffreyGoldberg/status/688381320150388736

As for the prisoner swap itself, I don’t disagree in principle with swaps between nations that are truly ending hostilities, but that’s obviously not the case here. If anything, Iran has ramped up its bellicosity and is just days removed from publicly humiliating American sailors in violation of international law. I’ll be interested to learn more about the identities and crimes of the Iranians we’re releasing. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect that we’ll be releasing men who committed serious crimes in exchange for innocent Americans who were snatched up, abused, and held as both symbols of malicious defiance and as bargaining chips.

I’m happy for the Abedinis and the other American families. Their ordeal is blessedly over. My hostility towards the jihadist Iranian regime is unmitigated. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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