He was the first person to storm the United States embassy in Tehran, along with other students, during the early years of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. In the following years, he became a critic of the political establishment of Iran. In 1993, he was imprisoned for eight months due to his critical writings in the reformist daily, Salam. He was a supporter of President Mohammad Khatami's reform plans, and one of the most influential figures in the reformist camp after 1997. He ran into legal trouble after the Iran student protests, July 1999 following the invasion of Tehran University dormatories, in which the police attacked the dormitory of the university because of student protests following Abdi's article in Salam.
Abdi became the director of the Ayandeh public opinion firm and participated in a poll asking Iranians if they supported resuming government dialogue with the United States. On 22 September 2002 the official news agency IRNA's published an Ayandeh poll indicating that 74.4% of Iranians favoured a resumption of ties with the United States. Abdi was arrested at his home on 4 November 2002, accused of "having received money from either the US polling firm Gallup or a foreign embassy". Abdi spent several years in prison as a result. In the 2009 presidential election he was one of the key advisors to Mehdi Karoubi.
- Mehrzad Boroujerdi; Kourosh Rahimkhani. "Iran's Political Elite". United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
- Iran: an afternoon with a hostage-taker
- Alert. Journalist Abdollah Nouri released but another journalist arrested
- BBC News: Leading Iranian Reformist Arrested
- TIME Europe: Interview with Abbas Abdi
- IRNA: Abbas Abdi Stand Trial Over Polling Case
- BBC News Story. Reference to Abbas Abdi's Role in 1979 U.S. Embassy Takeover in Tehran
- NY Times: Hostage-Taker, Reformer, Pessimist: An Iranian Life
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