By Catherine E. Shoichet and Eric MarrapodiTwo words are nowhere to be found in the pages of text that spell out a new interim nuclear deal with Iran: Saeed Abedini.
Now some supporters of the American pastor, who's been detained in Iran for more than a year, are accusing U.S. officials of betraying Abedini by signing off on an agreement that doesn't get him out of prison.
"The Obama administration has left Pastor Saeed behind. And by failing to secure his release as a precondition to any negotiations, the Obama administration sends a troubling message to the Iranian government that Americans are expendable," said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini's family in the United States.
Abedini, a 33-year-old U.S. citizen of Iranian birth, was sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this year, accused of attempting to undermine the Iranian government. At the time, an Iranian state news agency said he would soon be released on bail -- but supporters say Abedini remains behind bars in a dangerous prison where family members have been blocked form visiting him.
"The basis of the charge was Christian gatherings," Abedini's wife, Naghmeah, told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" in September.
"It is disheartening and discouraging that fighting for religious freedom and wrongful imprisonment of a U.S. citizen is no longer a priority for a country that was founded on such values," she said in a written statement to CNN on Monday.
U.S. President Barack Obama pushed for the release of Abedini and two other detained Americans -- Robert Levinson and Amir Hekmati -- when he spoke on the phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September.
Asked why Abedini's fate wasn't part of the interim nuclear deal with Iran, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the Geneva talks "focused exclusively on nuclear issues."
"But the United States has certainly raised Mr. Abedini's case -- and the cases of Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson -- in our bilateral discussions with Iran, including at the level of President Obama," she said. "We will continue to do so; we want to see these Americans reunited with their families."
One analyst told CNN Monday that focusing on nuclear policy was the right approach for the talks.
"In any negotiation, you've got to decide how much you're going to try to accomplish, and just tackling all the dimensions of the nuclear agreement is ambition enough," said Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
"We've got a host of concerns that are legitimate. We just can't satisfy them in one negotiation," he said. "The most urgent is the one that this negotiation focused on, which is the nuclear dimension of Iranian policy."
Abedini converted to Christianity from Islam and then became a pastor, living in Boise, Idaho. He regularly made trips to Iran and was working on a government-approved orphanage when he was arrested last year, his family said.
He was on a bus crossing from Turkey into Iran last summer when immigration officials took away his passport. He was later put under house arrest. Authorities took him to the notorious Evin prison in September 2012 while he awaited trial.
In January a judge from the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Court sentenced him to eight years in prison.
On a Facebook page dedicated to pushing for Abedini's freedom, dozens of supporters criticized the nuclear deal and said they were praying for the pastor's release.
"It's so senseless that our government would betray an American citizen like this ... especially under these unique circumstances. ... They had the opportunity," Gina Lewis Morrison wrote.
On Monday, Abedini's wife said she is turning to her faith.
"I cling to my faith and the hope I have in Jesus Christ to carry me through this difficult and emotional time, as once again I have to look at the tear-stained faces of my children and explain why daddy won't be home for Christmas," she said.
CNN's John Berman and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.
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