Amir Hekmati, a Marine Corps veteran who served at Camp Pendleton, has been held against his will in Iran for more than three years. Now his Michigan-based family says Iranian officials want to free him as part of a prisoner swap - an idea they oppose.
The New York Times reports Hekmati wrote a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, made public by his family, that details what he says are Iranian plans to release him back to his family if the U.S. agrees to free Iranians held in America:
The letter also disclosed previously unpublicized details of Mr. Hekmati’s confinement in Evin Prison in Tehran — including assertions of isolation in a 3-foot-by-3-foot cell for the first four months, and starvation and deception by Iranian officials — that the family had known but kept private.
The 31-year-old Hekmati was born in Arizona, raised in Michigan, and is of Iranian descent. He holds duel United States-Iran citizenship, as Home Post previously reported.
Hekmati joined the Marine Corps in 2001 and received basic training at Camp Pendleton.
In August 2011, Hekmati was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was detained and accused of spying. An Iranian revolutionary court secretly tried and convicted him of “practical collaboration with the American government."
The court sentenced Hekmati to 10 years in prison. It was the second time Hekmati was tried in Iran - after his first trial, he was sentenced to death. That verdict was later overturned.
The Hekmati family released a statement Wednesday in response to Hekmati's letter to President Rouhani, saying he should be released because he is innocent of the charges against him, and not part of a prisoner swap:
“Our family is deeply disturbed and shaken by the revelations from Amir's appeal to President Rouhani regarding his treatment and conditions in Evin prison. Despite reassurances to our family by prison officials in Iran that Amir has not been harmed, it is clear that his recent appeals to both U.S. and Iranian government officials are a cry for help.
"We urge President Rouhani to take action and see to it that Amir is given the justice he deserves. We continue to ask for a resolution to his case given his dire situation and the failing health of his father here in the US. We know Iran and the U.S. will soon be engaging in discussions in the upcoming days and our plea is that both sides seriously address Amir's case so that he can return home to be with his father when he needs him the most.”