The American pastor was imprisoned in Iran for three and a half years because of his Christian faith, where he was beaten and told to renounce his Christianity, but he refused. He was released in January as part of a hostage-prisoner exchange.

He said that he hopes to one day celebrate a “free future for Iran, a bright future”.

The Free Iran rally was organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) to aid the establishment of freedom and democracy in Iran; they called for an end to the oppression of minorities.

Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, said: “Their expectation of the next U.S. president, as with other Western leaders, is to abandon the policy of appeasement, which emboldens the Tehran regime to intensify the suppression of the Iranian people while continuing the policy of exporting terrorism to the region.”

U.S. Congressman, Brad Sherman, veteran of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, said the Free Iran rally does an important job of raising awareness and inspiring the effort for freedom, and congratulated the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) for “the critical role it played in exposing the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program.”

In his speech, Abedini reminded the audience that God is “always close to the oppressed”. When he was in prison, he was told that he’d never get out but his faith kept him going and he is certain that “evil will never win”.

Abedini said: “The Iranian people are much more modern and ahead of [their] leaders. The people should be able to choose their friends, their religion, and it’s time to stop the slogans against America and Israel, we love them both.”

Other high-profile American attendees included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former ambassadors to the United Nations John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.