Just over a year after his celebrated release from prison in Iran, persecuted Pastor Saeed Abedini’s marriage to his wife, Naghmeh, came to a bitter end last Thursday under a cloud of whispers and accusations of adultery and conspiracy.
“Naghmeh, today my divorce got finalised legally after one-and-a-half year,” Abedini declared last Thursday on his Facebook page.
Officials from the Fourth District Court of Ada County in Idaho, where the divorce documents were filed, said Wednesday they could not discuss the details of the divorce because the documents were sealed. A source familiar with Naghmeh, who now goes by her maiden name Naghmeh Panahi, confirmed that the divorce was finalized.
Since last Thursday, however, Abedini has been posting criticisms of leading religious figures like Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, claiming that they used him for personal gain until media interest in his story waned.
Graham, however, has disputed his claims.
“It is unfortunate that Graham’s efforts to secure his (Abedini’s) release from an Iranian prison and provide transportation for him from Germany to America, his financial assistance to Saeed and Naghmeh … his provision of marital counseling at no cost to them, and various offers of employment for Saeed have now been met with a bitter Facebook post about him and his ministry, Samaritan’s Purse,” Graham’s spokesman, Mark DeMoss, said in a statement to The Christian Post.
At least two sources who asked not to be named for this story suggested to CP that Graham began withdrawing his financial support for the persecuted pastor when he learned of Abedini’s alleged extra-marital affairs, both before he went to prison in Iran, and in Boise after his return home.
One source said the claims are laid out in sealed divorce documents.
Saeed did not respond to questions from CP regarding the allegations when contacted on Wednesday but he alleged in a Facebook post that Naghmeh took advantage of him and has made “false accusations” about him in the media.
“I gave Naghmeh full power attorney before I got arrested and after she released false accusation against me on media while I was still in prison she sold our properties and made our account empty and asked for protection order on me,” he wrote.
“Therefore when I got free I didn’t have anything and I couldn’t even get close to her and my children to ask why you did all this to me?! But I know why I will share and clarify in my book.
“Franklin Graham is aware of all this evil plan against me and he asked me to write all in my testimony book five weeks ago,” he added.
The controversial ex-couple, who have two young children, have been in the public eye since Abedini was placed under house arrest and later imprisoned for three-and-a-half years in his native Iran for participating in Christian home churches in 2012.
While imprisoned, Naghmeh made many public appearances lobbying for her then husband’s freedom, including giving a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013. She also met privately with former President Obama when he visited the former couple’s hometown in Boise, Idaho, in 2015.
But in November 2015, Naghmeh suspended her public advocacy for Saeed, citing continued psychological and sexual abuse in her marriage along with other allegations.
Then, 10 days after Abedini’s release from an Iranian prison in January 2016, Naghmeh filed for legal separation from her husband. She told Reuters that Abedini had threatened to end their marriage and that she had taken “temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho” until the situation between them had been resolved.
Last October, Abedini filed for divorce from Naghmeh.
Since their divorce was finalized last Thursday, Abedini has been lashing out at the justice system, his ex-wife, and high-profile religious figures.
“My experience in courts both in Iran and in USA was terrible and full of injustice,” he said in a post on his Facebook page last Thursday.
“Since I came back from prison my ex-wife Naghmeh never met me personally or even talk to me on the phone about our marriage problems and she didn’t let me to see my kids after four years when I got back home from prison in the first day and she told my kids I am criminal and police has problem with me not her who asked for protection order,” he wrote.
In another post on Wednesday, he explained that the judge in his divorce matter awarded custody of his two children to his ex-wife. Sources tell CP that the judge was Judge Jill Jurries.
“Iran government got me away from my family for 4 years. U.S. Court got away my kids from me for 1/5 years and forever. Both did because false accusations. Lord will judge both. I know God heard and hears my cry and he saw and he sees my tears,” he wrote.
“I [haven’t] see them for more than a month now and miss them a lot. Shame on you both. The female judge Jury(sic) said more than a year ago: ‘Saeed you have been far from your kids in prison for 5 years and we don’t care you have been in prison as criminal or as prisoner for Christ . Our psycologist believes we should not change kids stability and place of living, so we can’t give kids to you for overnight sleeping in your apartment,'” he continued.
“Since I got released I could see them less than 10 hours weekly because that’s what the Ex want. Court tortured me and my kids and in their fake dreams they think they are protecting them. You got away the father and the kids from each other’s and you think this is very Psychologic?! You guys are Psycho. You are trying to change the nature that God created in us by law . This is abusive,” he charged.
Abedini claimed his ex-wife manipulated Graham and his professional marriage counselors, and charged that Graham advised him to get a divorce.
“After he talked and tried so many time with Naghmeh and his fallen Pastor Bob Caldwell and Naghmeh’s parents tricky involvement, he called me six months ago and said: ‘Saeed get divorce, there is no other way,'” Saeed wrote.
He claimed that Graham concluded that his wife was the one who abused him and urged him to move to Lynchburg, Virginia, where sources say he is currently living with his sister.
“Naghmeh called police two times and gave a false report and there is a letter as evidence who proves she did it to hurt me publicly to keep the platform and attention for herself,” he wrote.
He also charged that Iranian intelligence officials were actively involved in destroying his reputation.
“Last night was the hardest night of my whole life and couldn’t stop crying and crying out to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ but I believe I am fighting with spirit of Jezebel these last years who got control in our beloved country USA and I never give up,” he said the day his divorce was finalized.
The persecuted pastor also accused Graham of encouraging him to leave ministry, but said he dismissed the evangelist as an agent of “Satan” for trying to discourage him from pursuing God’s calling on his life.
“He told me thing that wasn’t biblical while I was working for him like a Mexican worker in Alaska. He told me: leave ministry and preaching of the Gospel forever. God removed His hand from your life. You are finished,” Saeed wrote.
“These words were voice of Satan to me when I heard them because Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior appear to me 17 years ago and he told me: Saeed, I am coming back soon, go to preach my Gospel,” Abedini said. “And after that I started the largest churches in Iran Christian history, 100 Underground churches in 30 cities.
“And now he was trying to stop me to follow my Lord instead of encouraging me and helping me to follow my calling so I left him and his place and his jets forever and got back to Boise 6 months ago. He stood against God in my life,” he contended.