An American pastor who had been imprisoned in Iran for three years until he was freed last January in a prisoner swap with the U.S. was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty last year to violating a restraining order sought by his wife, who he filed for divorce from last fall.
Saeed Abedini was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but with all but five days suspended, and was credited with one day in light of his arrest in August. He was also informed that he may perform community service for the four remaining days.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Ada County Magistrate Daniel Steckel also fined Abedini $1,000, but suspended half of the penalty, and placed the pastor on two years of unsupervised probation.
Abedini may not come within 300 yards of his wife’s home, and a third party has been arranged to transport the couple’s children back and forth to visitations with their father. He may not have contact with his wife unless it relates to the children.
He did not wish to speak about the matter when contacted by the Statesman, but said he would “write something in [his] book in the future.”
As previously reported, Abedini, a former Muslim, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and two children to find religious freedom after facing conflict with authorities for planting house churches in the county.
In 2012, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents when he was taken into custody. He was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, but was transferred to to Rajai Shahr Prison in 2013, where he remained until January 2016, when he and other Americans were set free in a prisoner swap with Iran.
Just months before Abedini’s release, his wife Naghmeh, who had been tirelessly urging the U.S. government to work toward her husband’s release, announced that she would place her efforts on hold, citing marital issues.
“It is very serious stuff and I cannot live a lie anymore,” she wrote in an email to supporters. “So, I have decided to take a break from everything and seek the Lord on how to move forward.”
Naghmeh Abedini asserted that she had suffered “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse” stemming from her husband’s alleged porn addiction—abuse that she said worsened during Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran.
When Abedini returned to the states, she filed for a restraining order and sought legal separation.
But Abedini denied the claims, telling the Idaho Statesman, “Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s Facebook posts and subsequent media reports is not true. But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media.”
“I never abused anyone in my life, and I’ve never been addicted to anything,” he also told Christianity Today. “It’s clear to me that Satan is behind this.”
In October, Abedini announced on social media that he had filed for divorce.
“My heart is deeply saddened to be sharing the news that Naghmeh and I will be divorcing,” he wrote.
“There are no words to describe the ongoing effect of the trauma I experienced and my family has experienced both during and in the aftermath of my imprisonment. We are different people, and we are hurting people. It pains me to say, but I have decided the only path toward healing is apart, and not together,” Abedini said.
The divorce has not been finalized and is currently pending.