1000 days, 1000 nights. No one to speak to, no hands to hold, no warm embrace. Locked behind the cold, stone walls of a political prison in a country he had never visited before and never called home: Amir Hekmati stands alone.
Amir continues to languish in an Iranian prison, approaching nearly 3 years since his initial detainment. Having suffered nearly a year and a half of solitary confinement and unimaginable hardship, a death sentence, and an uncertain future, Amir is guilty of only one thing: a fearless love of family & kinship.
Over these 1000 days, Amir has had no due process, no legitimate trial, and no legal counsel. All the while, Amir's father battles terminal brain cancer that was diagnosed during Amir's captivity.
Our family has lived a nightmare, a unusual story you read in the headlines of a newspaper, something that just doesn't happen to you. To know our story, you only need to look around you, and imagine. Imagine but for a moment your most beloved child, grandchild, sibling, uncle, or friend...taken from you without warning, with no promise of a return. Imagine the guilt of enjoying a sunny day, a delicious warm meal, and the comfort of your home, knowing the one you love cannot. Imagine, but only for a moment, because any longer would be unbearable.
Our family is not seeking justice for Amir, we do not dwell upon the days past. We ask only for his immediate and unconditional release, and his safe return home. We offer our respect to the Supreme leader of Iran, and President Rohani, and ask that they consider the urgency of our appeal to release Amir Hekmati.
This Memorial Day, as we look around, we know Amir is not alone. Our family is surrounded by growing domestic and international support. People of all faiths and backgrounds stand united against oppression and ignorance. Joined by a common love of liberty & justice, we assemble as one voice for Amir, as once voice for humanity.
Memorial Day marks 1000 days of captivity for Amir, a decorated Marine veteran. Last week, for 1000 minutes, fellow veteran Terry Mahoney embodied the words "semper fidelis" as he stood loyally to commemorate Amir's fight for freedom. Terry Mahoney had never met Amir, yet his gesture was touching and selfless, an act of brotherhood that only a Marine would understand. Once a Marine, always a Marine--thank you Terry Mahoney, for breaking the silence for Amir's cause. In the famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
What can we do to avoid being silent, to help free Amir? If this message reaches you, please share Amir's story with everyone you know. If you have the means, please support the Free Amir fund. If you have fame or celebrity, please use your influence to spread Amir's message far and wide. Last but not least, and most important of all, if you have the heart, please remember Amir in your prayers.
It is with a very heavy heart that we receive the news that our son and brother, Amir Hekmati, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years in prison on the charge of "Practical Collaboration with the American government" in a secret trial in December.
This conviction is unsettling specifically because Amir was born and raised in the United States and committed no crime, choosing only to visit Iran to spend time with his ailing grandmother. Prior to receiving permission from Iran to visit, Amir submitted his application to the Iranian interests section in Washington D.C. and openly provided his military history both as a marine, and a contractor. Amir was then assured that he would have no problems entering Iran with this history.
The lack of transparency in Amir's case has made both defending him against these false charges and fighting for his freedom a path full of obstacles, road blocks, and unpredictable difficulties.
In addition to the devastating news of this secret conviction, our family is enduring great hardship as Amir's father, Dr. Ali Hekmati, struggles to recover from a recent stroke and declining health. Dr. Hekmati continues to fight his terminal brain cancer with the powerful will of a father who longs to embrace his son once again before it is too late.
Despite these afflictions, Amir's family continues to show faith in God that after this hardship will come ease. With every new challenge our determination grows, and our hope
never falters. Our family's love and resolve is emboldened by a diverse and growing global community of support that believes in justice, freedom, and humanity.
The Hekmati family respectfully asks senior Iranian officials to review Amir's conviction, and to resolve this grave misunderstanding by granting Amir his freedom and a safe return home.
TEHRAN — Amir Hekmati, a former Marine incarcerated here in August 2011 and sentenced to death on espionage charges that were overturned, was secretly retried by a revolutionary court in December, convicted of “practical collaboration with the American government” and given a 10-year prison term, his new lawyer said this week.
The lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, also said his client had never been informed about the retrial, conviction or sentence. Mr. Tabatabaei said he learned this information only recently in discussions with judiciary officials, which he shared by telephone with Mr. Hekmati, who is incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin prison, and with family members at Mr. Hekmati’s home in Flint, Mich. They had been able to retain Mr. Tabatabaei in January, part of an increasingly desperate attempt to seek Mr. Hekmati’s release.
Mr. Tabatabaei, who is well connected to Iran’s highest leaders, provided the information in a series of interviews this week at his West Tehran office. They were the first authoritative disclosures in more than two years about the status of Mr. Hekmati’s case, which has escalated into one of the major irritants in the estranged relations between Iran and the United States.
Amir Hekmati has been held in Tehran on spying charges.CreditFreeAmir.org, via Associated Press
Mr. Hekmati, 30, an American of Iranian descent who had been visiting relatives in Tehran for the first time when he was arrested more than two and a half years ago, has repeatedly asserted his innocence. American officials say they have raised the issue in all encounters with members of the Iranian government.
As of Friday, neither Mr. Hekmati nor his lawyer had received any written confirmation of the December conviction or sentence — not an uncommon occurrence in Iran’s legal system, which has been criticized by rights groups and the United Nations for what they call its secret, arbitrary and extrajudicial procedures. But Mr. Tabatabaei expressed confidence about the accuracy of the information.
He also suggested that Mr. Hekmati could possibly be freed in a matter of months, particularly if the United States government released at least some Iranian prisoners, in order to start “removing misunderstandings.” He did not specify any of these prisoners by name or alleged offense.
The Department of Justice says 38 Iranian citizens are currently incarcerated in federal prisons for a range of offenses, mostly on fraud and drug charges but also on smuggling, burglary and violations of national security laws. In the eyes of Iranian officials, however, the prisoner list may be much longer because they view American citizens of Iranian descent as Iranians.
Mr. Tabatabaei said he was sure the initial death sentence given to Mr. Hekmati for spying had been annulled. Now that he knows about the conviction and sentence, he said, he is working on strategies for an early release.
“Under Iranian law, and because of his polite behavior in jail, I am trying to get him released after he has served three years of his sentence,” Mr. Tabatabaei said. Counting time already served, that would be in August.
But he also emphasized that any reciprocal gesture by the American authorities could help. “Yes, yes, this is very important, if any of those prisoners are freed in the U.S., there will be more leniency regarding Mr. Hekmati’s dossier,” he said.
It was unclear whether Secretary of State John Kerry, who has raised the issue of Mr. Hekmati’s incarceration during talks with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, had been made aware of the secret conviction and 10-year sentence. Officials at the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Hekmati’s death sentence on espionage charges was overturned and a new trial ordered in March 2012. The family had thought the retrial had not taken place, since it was never announced.
A sister of Mr. Hekmati, Sarah Hekmati, said Friday that Mr. Tabatabaei had informed their mother by telephone of the new information on Thursday. “My mom being told about the December trial was news to her,” Ms. Hekmati said. “We didn’t know this ourselves.”
She also expressed confidence in Mr. Tabatabaei, who is considered one of the most influential lawyers in Iran. “The fact that the court is giving him this information is positive,” she said. “He told my mom he’s going to pursue all options available on the table.”
Inside Iran, Mr. Hekmati’s case is viewed as highly political. He is considered a pawn in domestic infighting between hard-liners, who want him in prison, and moderates who want him freed as a good-will gesture to the United States.
“Basically the judiciary, which is under the control of hard-liners, is opposed to Hekmati’s release, but the Foreign Ministry, deeply involved in nuclear talks in which the U.S. plays a crucial role, wants him freed,” a person with knowledge of Mr. Hekmati’s case said, asking to remain anonymous in order to avoid complicating the prospects of his release.
Mr. Tabatabaei has close relationships with a faction of reformists and moderates in Iran’s ruling elite. He represents the family of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and powerful business figure. He is also a lawyer to the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who have been under house arrest without a trial since 2011.
He also is no stranger to the capriciousness of Iran’s judicial system. In June he was sentenced to 50 lashes, four months in prison and a five-year ban on practicing law in a corruption case concerning the children of Mr. Rafsanjani. The case was widely viewed as an attempt by hard-liners to blunt Mr. Rafsanjani’s political influence.
The punishment was annulled by a higher court, and Mr. Tabatabaei’s fortunes changed after an ally of Mr. Rafsanjani’s, Hassan Rouhani, was elected president in June.
While he has not yet met Mr. Hekmati in person, and has not seen all the details of his file, Mr. Tabatabaei said the two spoke by telephone every couple of days.
Mr. Tabatabaei said that he had serious doubts about the validity of the sentence but that his priority was to seek an early release so that Mr. Hekmati could go home, hence he is not necessarily challenging the accusations. Mr. Hekmati’s father, a 63-year-old microbiology professor in Flint who has been afflicted with terminal brain cancer and debilitating strokes, is increasingly worried about not seeing his son.
Under Iran’s Islamic penal code, after the first three years of sentences served by prisoners like Mr. Hekmati, lawyers are allowed to file requests for early release. “Maybe I can get him released even before that, but a lot depends on the Americans,” Mr. Tabatabaei said. “If they show their good will, it will become much easier to get Mr. Hekmati freed.”
Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York, and Matt Apuzzo from Washington.
By Rick Gladstone for the New York Times:
The doctor for the terminally ill father of Amir Hekmati, the 30-year-old former Marine imprisoned in Iran, has written to the Iranian judicial authorities asking them to release Mr. Hekmati on compassionate grounds so he can return home, according to a copy of the letter shared by the family on Tuesday.
The letter said the father, Ali Hekmati, a professor of microbiology at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich., with a history of diabetes and strokes and an inoperable brain tumor, had been admitted to a Michigan hospital on March 25 after suffering an acute stroke. “It is unclear,” it said, “how much time that Dr. Hekmati has to live with his multiple medical co-morbidities and his terminal brain cancer.”
Today marks the 900th day of unjust incarceration for our brother and son Amir Hekmati, making him the longest-held American prisoner in an Iranian jail. Ever.
He left us and Michigan to visit our grandmother in Tehran.
900 long and lonely days that an American citizen and former U.S. Marine has sat in an Iranian prison as an innocent man, many of which were spent in solitary confinement. Lonely. Confused. Innocent.
900 days, almost three years since he was arrested, and nearly two years since a death sentence was annulled due to lack of evidence. And still, he languishes.
900 days missing birthdays, missing his baby niece and nephew grow up, and missing out on all of his ambitious dreams.
900 days missing his precious moments with his father, who is now dying of cancer.
900 days where there is no credible evidence against him. Though he pleaded his innocence and demanded evidence against him, he was shown no evidence. As he said in his letter that he smuggled out to Secretary Kerry, he is being used as a pawn.
Immediate intervention is needed.
We respectfully urge the Iranian authorities to re-examine his case. As an interim step, we respectfully ask that he be granted a furlough from Evin prison to see his father one last time.
In 900 days Amir has never given up. He never will.
He knows his country, America, is behind him. He knows his Marine brethren are behind him. He knows the citizens of Michigan and his Congressman are behind him. And he knows his family will never rest until we have our brother and son home.
To make us laugh; to inspire us; to care for us.
We would like to take a moment and offer out sincere thanks to those members of Congress who came together in a bipartisan effort to tell the world to #FreeAmir. We thank you for your continued to effort to raise awareness of Amir's imprisonment in Iran's Evin prison and we thank you for telling the world that Amir is not forgotten, that Amir is missed, and that Amir needs to be released and returned home.
Those standing with us as we stand together to #FreeAmir are:
Congressman Al Green
Congressman Alan Grayson
Congressman Alan Lowenthal
Congressman Andre Carson
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congressman Beto O’Rourke
Congressman Bill Foster
Congressman Bill Pascrell
Congressman Brad Schneider
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter
Congressman Chris Van Hollen
Congressman Dan Benishek
Congressman Dan Kildee
Congressman Darrell Issa
Congressman David Cicilline
Congressman David Joyce
Senator Debbie Stabenown
Congressman Denny Heck
Congressman Derek Kilmer
Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.
Congresswoman Donna M.C. Christensen
Congresswoman Doris Matsui
Congressman Eliot Engel
Congressman Eric Swalwell
Congressman Gary Peters
Congresswoman Grace Napolitano
Congressman Hank Johnson
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Congressswoman Jackie Speier
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
Congressman Jared Huffman
Congressman Jeff Miller
Congressman Jerrold Nadler
Congressman Jim Himes
Congressman Jim McDermott
Congressman Joaquin Castro
Congressman Joe Garcia
Congressman Joe Kennedy
Congressman John Lewis
Congressman John Tierney
Congressman John Conyers
Congressman Joseph Crowley
Congressman Juan Vargas
Congresswoman Julia Brownley
Congressman Keith Ellison
Congressman Keith Rothfus
Congressman Kerry Bentivolio
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema
Congressman Lloyd Dogget
Congresswoman Lois Capps
Congresswoman Lois Frankel
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard
Congressman Luke Messer
Congressman Mark Pocan
Congressman Matt Cartwright
Congressman Michael Grimm
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham
Congressman Patrick Murphy
Congressman Paul Broun
Congressman Paul Gosar
Congressman Randy Weber
Congressman Rodney Davis
Congressman Ron Barber
Congressman Ron Kind
Congressman Rush Holt
Congressman Sander Levin
Congressman Scott Perry
Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee
Congressman Steve Stivers
Congressman Steve Stockman
Congressman Steve Pearce
Congressman Steven Horsford
Congressman Ted Yoho
Senator Ted Cruz
Congressman Tony Cardenas
Congressman Trey Radel
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard
Congressman Walter Jones
Congressman Xavier Becerra
By MARIA SANMINIATELLI Associated Press, Linked through ABC News
The ailing father of a former U.S. Marine imprisoned in Iran is pleading for the release of his son in a letter delivered Wednesday to Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, in New York to attend a meeting of world leaders.
Ali Hekmati is asking Rouhani to order the release of his son, Amir, who was arrested in Iran in 2011. The family says Amir Hekmati, who has dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship, was visiting his grandmother. Iran accused him of being a CIA spy and convicted him.
"I long more than ever to see Amir's face. I am now very sick with a brain tumor," Ali Hekmati wrote in the letter, which was delivered to Rouhani's delegation by an Islamic religious official from Michigan who has a personal relationship with the Iranian president, according to a representative for the family.
"I ask that you let me see him again, one more time, and so that he may lead our family when I am gone," Hekmati wrote in his letter. "Amir is a good man. An honorable man. He is not a spy, I can assure you of that."
A spokesman at the Iranian Mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The family has cause for hope: Rouhani's moderate tone could signal a warming of relations with the United States. Iran freed dozens of political prisoners in the last week, just as Rouhani was headed to New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Earlier this month, Hekmati wrote a letter to Kerry describing his "miserable prison conditions" and his belief that Tehran wanted to use him in a possible prisoner exchange.
Hekmati's letter was smuggled out of prison. His sister authenticated the handwriting. The State Department said it was trying to determine Hekmati's condition through Swiss diplomats in Tehran. The Swiss represent U.S. interests in Iran because no U.S. officials are based there. The two countries severed diplomatic relations in 1979.
Two other American citizens are believed to be detained in Iran: Retir
ed FBI agent Robert Levinson and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini.