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Abedini praises wife, denies ‘much’ of abuse claim

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated in the eighth paragraph.

BOISE, Idaho (BP) — Saeed Abedini denied “much” of what his wife Naghmeh Abedini has alleged of spousal abuse and a pornography addiction in his first statements about their marriage since his release from an Iranian prison, but he praised his wife for advocating for his freedom.

“Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s [Facebook] posts and subsequent media reports is not true,” he said in a Jan. 30 statement to his hometown newspaper, the Idaho Statesman. “But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media. Naghmeh wrote this week, ‘We are taking personal time to work on very serious personal issues.’ I intend to do this hard work in private.”

Saeed Abedini released the statement days after his wife filed for legal separation in Ada County, Idaho, writing on Facebook that she wanted to guard against Abedini taking the children, 9-year-old Rebekka and 7-year-old Jacob, from Idaho while the couple works to heal their marriage.

“I have taken temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved,” she wrote on Facebook. “In very difficult situations sometimes you have to establish boundaries while you work toward healing.”

She filed the case against the 35-year-old pastor as he returned to Boise Jan. 27 from the Billy Graham Conference Center at the Cove in Asheville, N.C., his first stop in the U.S. on Jan. 21 from Iran, where he had been unjustly imprisoned three-and-a-half years because of his Christian faith.

In his statement to the Statesman, Abedini said he had no intention of removing the children from their Boise home.

“Of course, I had no intention of taking our children away from our home or our state,” he wrote. “When I arrived in America I went to the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina with my parents and my sister, fully expecting Naghmeh and our children to join me there. She chose instead to remain at home in Idaho, and when I arrived there this week I was met with news that she had filed a domestic relations case, apparently in order to ensure our children could remain in the state.”

Abedini pleaded guilty on Jan. 25, 2008, to a July 1, 2007 charge of domestic assault, received a 90-day suspended sentence and a one-year probation, and paid a $75.50 fine. The case is listed on the Ada County Magistrate Court online repository under Abedini’s full name, Saeed Abedinigalangashi. No other charges of domestic abuse against the pastor were indicated on the Ada County repository.

Abedini was unable to respond, he noted, when emails Naghmeh Abedini had written only to close friends were leaked to the media in November 2015, stating that her husband had abused her during their marriage and had been addicted to pornography. Although she expressed regret for having sent the emails, she said in subsequent statements that she regretting keeping news of the alleged abuse from the public.

“Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer,” she revealed in her latest public comments Jan. 27. “He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.”

At least some of Naghmeh Abedini’s accusations are untrue, her husband wrote, but stopped short of revealing which of the allegations are untrue. He still loves his wife, he said.

“It is not my intention to speak further publicly — through social media or any other channels — at least until I believe we have made significant progress in private,” he wrote. “Our marriage is under great stress and I am hoping and praying for healing and restoration. I love my wife and want God’s will for both of our lives.”

He praised his wife for advocating for his release during his harsh imprisonment.

“Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf. I will always love her for her sacrifice,” he wrote. “Throughout my imprisonment my wife Naghmeh drew national attention to my case and encouraged millions of people to pray for my release. God answered those prayers and brought me safely home.”

Saeed Abedini described himself in his statement to the Statesman as a sinner saved only by grace. He had been imprisoned since Sept. 26, 2012, and was serving an eight-year sentence on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier. Prior to his imprisonment, he had been under house arrest since July 2012.

“While I am far from perfect– as a man or as a husband, I am seeking every day to submit to God as He molds me into what He wants me to be,” he wrote. “The God I serve today is the same God I served while being interrogated and beaten in some of the harshest prison conditions in the world and He is capable of restoring a marriage that has withstood unbelievable pressure. I ask for prayer for another victory.”

Abedini has visited with his children since returning to Boise but gave no indication of where he is currently residing.