LA PUENTE, Calif. (AP) – A Southern California preacher who was briefly detained after protesting outside an Iranian prison was expected back home Wednesday, his daughter said.
Eddie Romero surrendered peacefully to guards at Evin Prison in Tehran on Monday after repeatedly shouting “Let my people go” in Farsi to protest the imprisonment of four Christian converts and a human rights advocate, Sarah Yetter said.
He was held and questioned but called his family early Tuesday morning from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and said he would return Wednesday afternoon to Los Angeles on a Turkish Airlines flight, Yetter said.
“We are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Iran and, due to privacy consideration, have no further comments or details this time,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington, D.C.
Romero is founder of Exodus8one, whose website says the organization’s mission includes directly engaging “belligerent” governments and societies over injustices toward Christians and other religious minorities.
In 2008, Romero was arrested in China during the Beijing Olympics after demanding the release of five Chinese activists. In Beijing, Romero painted on the walls of a hotel room and then went on the run for 21 days before surrendering in Tiananmen Square. Chinese authorities held Romero for approximately 24 hours before putting him on a flight home, Yetter said.
Romero crossed into Iran from Turkey with a tour group on Oct. 14, broke away last Thursday night and reappeared Monday at Evin Prison.
Romero used a smartphone to broadcast audio and some video of his protest and eventual detention on the Internet, his daughter said.
“We weren’t sure if there was going to be violence or if he was just going to get grabbed. Or be ignored,” Yetter said.
“You want your loved one to be well and safe and never do anything risky,” she said. “But knowing my dad, we realize that he is cut out for this kind of a thing. And we support him 100 percent.”
Shahrokh Afshar, a pastor for The Iranian Church On The Way in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles, said the guards sounded confused in the recording but remained respectful.
“They weren’t sure if he was there protesting or if he wanted to visit someone,” Afshar told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (
Romero hoped to raise awareness about Farshid Fathi, Saeed Abedini, Mostafa Bordbar and Alireza Seyyedian. The Christian converts were imprisoned because of their faith, Afshar said.
He also protested the imprisonment of a non-Christian, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a human rights advocate and lawyer who defended dissidents.
Romero retired as a pastor from Hacienda Christian Fellowship in La Puente, Calif., in July. He founded Exodus8one in 2008 and is currently a world religion and philosophy professor at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.
AP writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.