Family members of Amir Hekmati are pleading with Iran for his release from an Iranian prison. Hekmati, a 28-year old American of Iranian decent, travelled to Iran in the summer of 2011 to visit his grandmother and other relatives.
As a first-generation American, Hekmati missed the connection with his relatives growing up. He remembered the warm relations he had had with his grandmother when she came to America to visit the family. The last time he saw her, he was 12 years-old.
Despite objections from his mother and other family members, Hekmati decided to travel to Iran. His sister had visited twice before with no problems. Hekmati applied for an entry visa through all the proper channels. He specifically told the Iranian authorities that he was a former Marine (he had been a translator in Iraq, among other positions in the military) and asked them if that would create any problems for him. His paperwork was processed and Hekamti set off for Iran.
Just a few short weeks after his arrival, Hekmati was arrested and accused of being a spy for the CIA. A court case in January rendered a conviction, and Hekmati was sentenced to death.
However, in March, the conviction was annulled. Yet to date, Hekmati remains in solitary confinement in the dreaded Evin Prison in Iran.
In a radio show broadcasted by The World, Hekmatiâ€™s sister, Sarah Hekmati, a school social worker who lives in Lathrup Village, Michigan, told interviewer Marco Werman that her brother was a pawn, unfortunately caught up in politics between the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. government categorically denies that he was a spy.
We do know everything about what Amir was doing in Iran through Amir himself. He called mother almost daily and update her about where he visited, how excited he was to be in that culture. Even the CIA acknowledged that he was not part of the CIA.
Ramy Kurdi, Sarahâ€™s husband and an orthopedic surgeon, says, â€śWe do know everything about what Amir was doing in Iran through Amir himself. He called mother almost daily and updated her about where he visited, how excited he was to be in that culture. Even the CIA acknowledged that he was not part of the CIA.â€ť
Hekmatiâ€™s mother has traveled to Iran three times to visit her son. Kurdi reports that â€śheâ€™s emaciated and lost a lot of weight. Knowing Amir for years and years, heâ€™s really a fitness guy. He takes care of himself, he works out, and just judging by his appearance, looking at him from pictures and from his motherâ€™s guess, we think he lost anywhere between thirty, forty pounds, but, overall, weâ€™re hoping his morale is strong. We know that he does communicate to his mother that he food and drink and all the basic necessities, but he is in solitary confinement for over a year.â€ť
In addition, Amirâ€™s father, Ali Hekmati, a teacher in Michigan at a community college, was recenly diagnosed with brain cancer.
Says Sarah Hekmati, â€śThe prognosis is grim, unfortunately, but itâ€™s something thatâ€™s really heart-wrenching considering Amir has no contact with us, and heâ€™s unaware that my dad is going through this.â€ť