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Naghmeh Abedini regrets emails of marital woe

NASHVILLE (BP) — The wife of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini has voiced regret for emails she sent to close friends reportedly accusing the pastor of spousal abuse stemming from what was described in press reports as his addiction to pornography.

In two emails to close friends, Abedini disclosed that her marriage to Saeed Abedini has been troubled by “physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),” Christianity Today reported Nov. 12.

Naghmeh Abedini expressed regret a day later.

“I regret having sent the emails,” she said in a statement released Nov. 13 through the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). “I was under great psychological and emotional distress. I am now taking time off [from public advocacy for her husband’s release] to heal and to rest and to spend much needed time with my kids.”

She did not specify the content of the emails nor retract their content. Baptist Press does not have access to the emails, which reportedly were never intended for wide release.

“I would appreciate for those who care about Saeed and our family to give us time for rest and healing and to respect our privacy,” Abedini said through the ACLJ. “I will continue to pray for my husband’s release and advocate for him as he suffers in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith. I would also ask others to join me in continuing to pray for his release.”

Christianity Today reported Saeed Abedini has continued to abuse his wife since his 2012 imprisonment for his faith, communicating with her through “phone and Skype.” Saeed has kept in touch with his public supporters through letters and messages relayed through family members who have been able to visit, according to media reports in Baptist Press and other news services.

The ACLJ would not comment on Saeed Abedini’s reported use of Skype in a prison where he has been subjected to beatings and inadequate medical care, but committed to continue advocating for the pastor.

“In recent days, Naghmeh — Pastor Saeed’s wife — has revealed that she is dealing with some very serious personal issues inside her family. She has asked for privacy and prayer. We are respecting her request,” the ACLJ said in a statement. “The ACLJ will not have any comment on the personal issues that she is addressing. What we are focused on is this: bringing home an American pastor who has been wrongly imprisoned in Iran because of his faith.

“We know that Pastor Saeed remains in grave danger in prison where he continues to be beaten and psychologically abused by Iranian guards and remains in need of medical care,” the ACLJ said. “We continue to pray for Naghmeh, Pastor Saeed, and their family. We will continue our work — in this country and abroad — to secure the freedom of this U.S. citizen.”

He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, to eight years in prison on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July 2012.

Naghmeh Abedini has advocated widely for her husband’s release, maintaining a Facebook page, meeting with President Obama, speaking before Congress and in many venues. She marked Sept. 27 the third anniversary of her husband’s imprisonment with fasting and a prayer vigil in Boise, Idaho, one of 810 such commemorations held worldwide in support of the pastor. Just a week earlier, she addressed more than 100 parliamentarians from nearly 50 countries at the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, where 67 parliamentarians signed a letter to the speaker of the Iranian Parliament calling for Abedini’s release.

An ACLJ petition at BeHeard.org has over 1.1 million signatures.

Naghmeh Abedini posted on Facebook Nov. 1 that she would not make any more posts for as many as three months, but did not mention spousal abuse.

“I am going to be taking time off of my social media and Facebook (at least for the next 2-3 months) and will be spending more time with the Lord and more time with my kids who desperately need it,” she said in the post. “I will not be checking my message [sic] and will not be able to answer my messages. Love you all. Keep your eyes on Jesus!”

She continues to live in Boise, Idaho, with the couple’s two children, 9-year-old Rebekka and 7-year-old Jacob.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, wrote in Christianity Today that Christians should maintain wisdom in response to the allegations of spousal abuse.

“It matters that a wife has spoken up. We should take seriously any accusations from those who speak up about abuse. Therefore, we are hurting with Naghmeh in this moment,” Stetzer wrote Nov. 12. “Yet at the same time, we do not forsake Pastor Saeed. We must carefully consider the situation, the people involved, and the implications moving forward. This is no time to be hasty or reactionary. Wisdom is necessary.”

He encouraged Christians to continue praying for the Abedini family and working for the pastor’s release.

“Obviously, we continue to pray for the Lord to provide for Pastor Saeed and pray for his safe release,” Stetzer said. “At the same time, we must ferociously pray for Naghmeh and their children.”