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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The wife of an Idaho pastor who is among four detained Americans being released from Iran said Saturday that the news "was a huge burden lifted off."
Naghmeh Abedini told The Associated Press that after she learned that Saeed Abedini was to be released, she woke her kids up and told them "Daddy was coming home."
"They were just excited. They couldn't believe it," she said in a telephone interview from Boise.
Iran agreed to release four detained Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States, U.S. and Iran officials said Saturday. A fifth American detained in Iran, a student, was released in a move unrelated to a prisoner swap earlier between the two countries.
The four Americans were to be flown from Iran to Switzerland and then taken to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for medical treatment, U.S. officials said. Those released include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari.
The Boise man was detained for compromising national security, presumably because of Christian proselytizing, in September 2012. He was sentenced in 2013 to 8 years in prison.
"We are rejoicing," Jay Sekulow, a leading advocate for the pastor and chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice in Washington, D.C., said in a video posted on the center's website.
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born American citizen, was imprisoned "over three years ago because of his Christian faith," Sekulow said. He was in Iran building an orphanage, Sekulow said.
"It's been a really hard battle," said Naghmeh Abedini, adding that she has worked with different government officials and others to advocate for her husband and to keep his story alive.
Early last year, she met with President Barack Obama while he was visiting Boise. She said at the time that she urged him not to approve the deal with Iran without working on securing her husband's freedom.