Family pleads for release of former Marine imprisoned in Iran
Amir Hekmati
March 8th, 2013
06:34 PM ET

Family pleads for release of former Marine imprisoned in Iran

By Elise Labott

A year ago this week, an Iranian court threw out the death penalty conviction of a former U.S. Marine accused of spying and ordered a retrial.

After the death sentence was overturned, his family in Michigan held out hope Amir Hekmati would be released.

Instead, he has spent the past year in solitary confinement at Iran's notorious Evin Prison.

Hekmati was detained by Iranian authorities in August 2011 during a two-week visit to see his grandmother. Iranian authorities accused him spying on behalf of the CIA, a charge the family and the Obama administration deny.

Born in Arizona and raised in Nebraska before settling in Flint, Michigan, with his family, Hekmati joined the Marines out of high school. He finished his service four years later as a decorated combat veteran for tours in Iraq.

Afterward, he worked as a contractor as an Arabic translator and helped to train troops with cultural sensitivity.

Ramy Kurdi, who is married to Hekmati's eldest sister, said in an interview that his brother-in-law was honest with the Iranian Interest Section in Washington about his service when he applied for a visa.

"He told his mom, 'I have nothing to hide.' And after he disclosed this to the Iranians, they told him he would be welcomed in Iran and would have no problem," Kurdi said.

His family followed instructions by the Iranian government to remain silent about his arrest and suggested his release could come in a few months.

Three months later, in December, Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television maintaining he was sent to Iran by the CIA, a performance Kurdi said was a forced confession made under duress.

Although Hekmati's death sentence, imposed after a closed-door trial, was overturned and set for retrial, there have been no new legal proceedings and the government has not been communicating with the family.

"To have the death sentence overturned is a great victory, but for him to continue to be punished for something when the court said there is not enough evidence is so painful for us to deal with as a family," Kurdi said.

In January 2012, the Iranian government permitted Hekmati's mother to visit him in prison, but kept her from her son during two subsequent visits. Repeated requests by the family for his court-appointed lawyer to visit him have been denied.

Evin Prison is where American hikers Sharah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were imprisoned on charges of spying after crossing the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 before ultimately being released. Bauer and Fattal were released two days after Hekmati's arrest.

Recently, Hekmati was moved out of solitary confinement to the general prison population, after a month-long hunger strike which left him unconscious and needing medical treatment. An uncle who lives in Iran was able to visit him in prison last month.

His family is concerned about Hekmati's heath, but is also in a race against the clock to get him home with his father, a biology professor who is battling terminal cancer. Hekmati does not know about his father's illness.

"We have no idea how much longer his father has," Kurdi said. "We just hope how ever long he has he gets to enjoy it with his whole family, with Amir home."

The family is hoping Hekmati can be released as a humanitarian gesture for the Persian New Year on March 20.

"Our family is not political," Kurdi said. We are Americans. Amir is an American citizen. We are not trying to involve ourselves in the politics between Iran and the U.S."

soundoff (200 Responses)
  1. John Smith

    A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic reveals how retired US colonel James Steele, a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, played a key role in training and overseeing US-funded special police commandos who ran a network of torture centres in Iraq. Another special forces veteran, Colonel James Coffman, worked with Steele and reported directly to General David Petraeus, who had been sent into Iraq to organise the Iraqi security services.

    March 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  2. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    March 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  3. cienvalentine

    Suffering was not part of God’s purpose for mankind. However, the first human couple rebelled against God’s rulership, choosing to set their own standards of good and bad. They turned away from God and suffered the consequences. Today we are experiencing the effects of their bad choice. But in no way did God originate human suffering. The Bible says: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) Suffering can afflict anyone—even those who are favored by God.

    March 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  4. Ewewanna Suq Me Diq

    How sad will he be when he gets home and finds out his country took away his college money.

    March 9, 2013 at 9:54 am | Reply
  5. Makananinenmhx

    oqxcjguqt 293 ezomakolj http://www.acheterchristianlouboutinpascher.net stbdfkwfu 453 pnddywlzx chaussure louboutin noyijloqx 898 erwixyujo
    kyygeswxw 744 cczycguzg http://www.chaussureschristianlouboutinfr.net zohnlzdlv 012 cydqucswv Christian Louboutin Pas Cher Soldes gbodngwiw 523 wimmgrbby
    kqdmievij 253 hysmfldsi http://www.chaussures-louboutin-france.com fxlicodem 960 ncrxbizcu Christian Louboutin Pas Cher Soldes fizncilud 105 rkvgrciux
    pnqdqnywk 368 ochukqxxg http://www.chaussureslouboutin-france.com zumwnybjg 078 zuhohsxla Christian Louboutin Pas Cher Soldes uliycrbog 526 kbczpgnyi
    bayidjzyx 572 bwbjqlbkm http://www.chaussures-louboutinsoldes.net etfdnogzf 301 zzgcozyol christian louboutin pas che suuhamilz 177 zcftbnlvo

    March 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.