Thursday marked one-year since American Pastor Saeed Abedini was thrown into an Iranian prison. He is serving an eight-year sentence because of his Christian faith.
But international pressure to release him continues to build.
Pastor Abedini was building an orphanage in Iran when he was arrested. His crime, according to Iranian authorities was endangering national security.
"We didn't know where he was a for a week. (My children) kept coming to the computer saying, 'Mommy, can we see daddy? Can we hear his voice?'" His wife, Nagmeh, told a congressional committee earlier this year.
"And I kept saying, 'No, you can't.' I couldn't explain to them why...that he was physically taken to prison," she testified. "And finally they kept saying, 'Does daddy not love us anymore? Does daddy not want to hear our voices anymore?' And I had to tell them that he was imprisoned because he loved Jesus."
Pastor Abedini has paid a terrible price, suffering beatings and torture and deteriorating health from from untreated medical conditions.
Jordan Sekulow, with the American Center for Law and Justice, said doctors who examined Pastor Abedini "have confirmed the internal bleeding because of the initial beatings and the severe torture he faced early on in his imprisonment."
But international calls for his release have ramped up considerably. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for Pastor Abedini's immediate release.
"We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him," State Department officer Wendy Sherman said.
"We will continue to pursue this in every way possible that we can, through every channel we possible can," she said.
This week, Nagmeh was able to hand-delivered a letter pleading for her husband's release to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's delegation in New York.
And the Rev. Billy Graham has written Iran's president, calling Pastor Abedini a "man of God" and asking the Iranians to release him.
Prayer vigils marking the one year anniversary of Pastor Abedini's incarceration are being held in 40 states at capitols, city halls, parks, and churches. Thousands gathered with one prayer: that the pastor be freed.
The ACLJ helped organize some of the events, including one outside the White House. Members of Congress and a State Department representative were at Thursday's D.C. vigil.
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