The ex-wife of Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini says that Samaritan’s Purse CEO Franklin Graham bullied and belittled her amid her husband’s high-profile release from Iranian prison, even flying the abusive husband out to see his estranged wife and children when she had told Graham she feared for her life.
Nagmeh Panahi recently made these stunning claims to Julie Roys in a two-part podcast interview in which she detailed the horrific physical and emotional abuse she suffered at Abedini’s hands and the disturbing reaction that Graham and Abedini’s well-known legal adivsors, Jay and Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), gave her when she finally came forward about the abuse.
Panahi says that while Jay Sekulow encouraged her to tell the public that she was struggling with mental illness after she made her accusations public (a claim which he has flatly denied and declined to comment any further), she says that Graham questioned her fidelity.
Roys writes that Panahi had expected “sympathy and understanding” from the well-known evangelist and son to the legendary Billy Graham.
“Instead, she says Graham asked Panahi if she was cheating on her husband,” she says.
“I felt like this bleeding woman on the side of the road,” Panahi told Roys. “And this is the big stone being thrown—the first stone of adulteress.”
In email threads between Graham, Panahi, and others who were involved in mitigating Panahi’s insistence that Abedini attend abuse counseling alone before she would agree to attend in-person counseling together, it seems that Graham was fully aware that Abedini had beaten his wife and consumed pornography.
In one email dated January 23, 2016, Graham allegedly referred to Abedini as a “hero,” writing, “I’m not saying that Saeed is not guilty of abuse or watching pornography and I am sure he is guilty of much more. The problem is you exposed him publicly to the whole world and embarrassed him.”
Panahi says that her husband was so severely abusive, that once she was beaten so badly that she thought she would die. She says that he also once broke her father’s nose.
When Abedini had been released from prison in Iran, Panahi initially agreed to fly out to meet him first in Germany, then North Carolina, but changed her mind, telling Graham she feared for her safety.
So instead, without telling her, she says Graham flew Abedini out to Boise, Idaho, where Panahi was living with her parents.
Fearful that Abedini could take her children with him as she had not filed for legal separation, as he had threatened to do, she scrambled to file for the necessary paperwork to obtain a protective order as Abedini was in the air aboard one of Samaritan Purse’s private jets with Graham, two of his marriage counselors, and a bodyguard.
“Who does that when I’ve told Franklin, ‘I’m afraid. Saeed has threatened to take the kids’?” she told Roys. “Who does a surprise with a bodyguard and Saeed and his parents and his sister and the marriage counselors? They show up unannounced on a private jet—like that is traumatic.”
Although Graham did reportedly tell Abedini at times that he needed to deal with his abusive tendencies, Panahi says he repeatedly criticized her for refusing to budge on her insistence that her husband attend counseling alone.
You can read more here on Roys’ website about Panahi’s disturbing allegations and lengthy story, which includes email threads between herself and Graham as well as listen to her tell her story here:
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