A California church has filed a lawsuit in order to settle a dispute over the money that was raised for Pastor Saeed Abedini's family while he was imprisoned in Iran.
Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel, located in Yucca Valley, California, had raised nearly $200,000 for Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and their two children. However, matters became more complicated after the pastor and his wife announced their divorce a few months after he was released from prison in January last year.
Abedini had insisted that he should receive the money, but the church stated that "a substantial controversy exists concerning entitlement to the charitable donations" because the couple is now separated, and the church had collected the donations to buy a house for Naghmeh and her children.
"Plaintiff (Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel) cannot distribute the benefits because it cannot determine which of the competing claimants, if any, is entitled to the said funds," the lawsuit stated, according to The Christian Post.
Naghmeh had campaigned tirelessly for the pastor's release, but she filed a domestic relations case against Abedini on the same day he arrived in Boise, Idaho. She also filed a petition for legal separation as well as a temporary restraining order concerning their children and property.
Abedini has recently posted critical messages against his wife and Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel, along with some Christian leaders who campaigned for his release.
"Idaho media recently asked about the $200,000 which was raised for me when I was in prison and wanted to know what happened to that money and I didn't have any answer," the pastor wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
Abedini said that he was informed about the lawsuit against him when he called Pastor Jerel Hagerman to ask about the money.
According to the lawsuit, Hagerman's wife, Merrily, launched the fundraising campaign to buy a house for Abedini's family after meeting with Naghmeh in Idaho in 2014. The campaign had raised a total of $198,350.
Naghmeh said at that time that she would wait until March in 2014 to think about looking for a home because she wanted to go house-hunting with her husband.
The church stated in the lawsuit that Abedini called Merrily on Dec. 2, 2016 to ask for the money. Five days later, the church told him that the money was raised to buy a home for his wife and his children and that the change in their circumstances had led it to question its obligations to the donors.
The church said that the lawsuit was filed in order to get declaratory relief to determine who should get the money. It insisted that its actions were done "in good faith and without any collusion from or collaboration with any of the parties who might be entitled to the said funds."
David Earl Jacobs, the church's lawyer, said that the money would be given to Naghmeh within 60 days if Abedini backs off on his claims. The case will be heard on June 26 at 8:30 a.m.