He isn’t likely to go to jail, but the Boise minister held in an Iranian prison for nearly three years before his release last year will have to work off four days through community service or through labor on a sheriff’s office work crew.
On Monday, Saeed Abedini pleaded guilty in Ada County Magistrate Court to violation of a restraining order taken out by his estranged wife, Naghmeh.
Magistrate Daniel Steckel sentenced Abedini, 36, to 180 days in jail but suspended all but five days. He was given credit for the one day he spent in the Ada County Jail after he was arrested Aug. 31. He was also fined $1,000, with $500 suspended, and placed on unsupervised probation for two years.
He was also ordered to remain at least 300 yards away from Naghmeh Abedini’s home in West Boise. He may text or email her for matters concerning their children but may not otherwise have contact with her. The judge also ordered having a third person arrange for bringing the children from one parent to the other.
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Contacted by telephone on Tuesday, Abedini declined to comment.
“This was a personal matter that I won’t share in public,” Abedini said. “I will write something in my book in the future.”
No details of what happened during the incident, which took place last May 26, were provided in court documents. Monday’s hearing was held in Steckel’s chambers, which was not open to the public and no audio recordings were made.
Two other counts, which alleged violations of the restraining order on June 1 and 2, were dismissed in exchange for Abedini’s guilty plea.
Saeed grew up in Iran and is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000, moved to Idaho with Naghmeh in 2005 and became a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen in 2010. For some time in Iran, he organized underground “house churches,” where groups of Christians worshiped together.
On a 2009 family visit to Iran, Saeed was detained at the airport and he agreed to cease all house church activities. For the next few years, he traveled back and forth to Iran to build an orphanage. But he was detained again in July 2012 on charges of evangelizing and sentenced to eight years in prison. Saeed said he was imprisoned for “being a Christian and refusing to renounce my faith in Jesus Christ.”
He suffered internal injuries from beatings he endured and was denied medical care during his imprisonment in Iran.
Naghmeh Abedini brought nationwide attention to her husband’s plight in advocating for his release. Then-President Barack Obama met with her during a trip to Boise in 2015 and pledged his support. Three friends from North Carolina, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, also worked for Abedini’s release.
Naghmeh filed for legal separation from her husband the day he arrived back in Boise, five days after Saeed was released from the Rajai Shahr prison in a January 2016 prisoner exchange. At the same time, she obtained a temporary restraining order to ensure the couple’s two young children remained in Idaho.
Two months before Saeed was released, Naghmeh revealed troubles in the couple’s marriage in two emails sent to her supporters. The emails, which were later made public, said she had suffered abuse during much of the marriage, which began in 2004.
In an email last year to the Idaho Statesman, Saeed acknowledged trouble in his marriage. He said he was not perfect, but he denied his wife’s allegations of abuse.
In 2007, Saeed Abedini pleaded guilty to domestic abuse in Ada County Magistrate Court. He received a 90-day suspended sentence and was placed on probation for a year.