Pastor who was imprisoned in Iran expected home Tuesday

An American pastor who was imprisoned for nearly four years in Iran is expected to return home to Boise on Tuesday, the Idaho Statesman ( reported.

Saeed Abedini was one of four Americans released in Iran under a negotiated prisoner exchange on Jan. 16. The U.S. agreed to free seven Iranians from American custody in exchange for the release of Abedini and the others.

The 35-year-old Abedini spent the last five days with his parents and sister at a secluded retreat in Asheville, North Carolina. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and their children originally planned to meet him at the retreat operated by the Rev. Franklin Graham.

Graham's spokesman, Mark DeMoss, told the Boise newspaper on Tuesday that the plans had changed, with Abedini returning to Boise to reunite with his family. The pastor, his parents and sister were expected to arrive in Boise on Tuesday, DeMoss said.

"It now looks like they're going to actually going to reconnect in Boise and not in North Carolina," DeMoss said. "My understanding is that Saeed, his parents and his sister are going to go to Boise later today."

The Boise man was detained in Iran for compromising national security, presumably because of Christian proselytizing. He was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison.

Naghmeh Abedini could not be immediately reached for comment.

Graham became an advocate for Saeed in 2013 after Naghmeh Abedini reached out to him, DeMoss said. Graham joined a 2014 prayer vigil outside the White House urging Saeed's release.

"Franklin has just tried to be a good friend and offer support, draw attention to the case, encourage people to pray for Saeed while he was in prison and praying for his family," DeMoss said. "He's offered to stay connected and be helpful in any way that he could. It's become a good friendship."