One can only imagine the hope that must have been felt by the families of three Americans held captive by Iran when they learned of Friday’s phone conversation between Presidents Obama and Hasan Rouhani – a conversation that marked the first communication between an American and Iranian president in over 30 years.
An administration official confirmed to CNN that Obama “noted our concern about three American citizens who have been held within Iran — Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati — and noted our interest in seeing those Americans reunited with their families” during the call.
Levinson is the retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran while investigating cigarette smuggling in 2007 and whose whereabouts, sadly, are unknown.
According to CNN:
During an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Rouhani offered little when asked what he can tell Levinson’s family.
“We don’t know where he is, who he is,” Rouhani said. “He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him.”
In November, Levinson will become one of the longest-held Americans in history passing the 2,454 days Terry Anderson spent in captivity before being freed by Islamic militants in Lebanon in 1991.
Hekmati is a former Marine who was imprisoned in Iran while visiting his grandmother in August 2011 and accused of working for the CIA. He was recently able to smuggle a letter out of his prison to Sec. of State John Kerry.
“In December 2011, Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television maintaining that he had been sent to Iran by the CIA, but in his letter to Kerry, published on September 11 in the Guardian, he said he had been held “on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement,” the article said.
Abedini is the Christian pastor sentenced to serve eight years for preaching his faith in Iran one year ago.
“In a news release Friday from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, was quoted as saying she was “very grateful to President Obama for standing up for Saeed and for the other Americans who are held captive in Iran,” according to CNN.
Last week, Abedini’s wife was able to hand-deliver a letter to Rouhani while he was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly pleading for her husband’s release.