Letter to Iranian Interest Section; Renouncing Iranian citizenship

To: Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C.

From: Amir Hekmati RE: Renunciation of Iranian Citizenship

To Whom It May Concern:

Although I was born in the US to Iranian-born parents, my father and mother made great efforts to teach me about my Iranian heritage. I was raised to be proud of having ties to a country with such a rich history and culture. In the summer of 2011, when I applied for a visa, I was both surprised and honored to be issued an Iranian passport instead. This made me feel welcome and a part of the 75 million plus family of Iranians. Sadly, after only three weeks of my visit, I was falsely imprisoned and put as a part of a propaganda campaign by the Ministry of Intelligence and for nearly 3 ½ years I’ve endured inhumane treatment and witnessed the devastation this has caused my family and the deteriorating health of my father who is battling with cancer.

I will never forget being told by a Ministry of Intelligence guard while in the interrogation center that I was only “an Iranian by name.” Considering how proud I was of my Iranian background, these are some of the painful words I have endured to date. Shortly after, I was referred to by Judge Salavati of the Islamic Revolutionary court that I was an enemy of god and a source of corruption on earth and paraded on Iranian television as a major catch and a testament to Iran’s intelligence prowess. After a 15 minute trial, I was sentenced to death by hanging, having quickly been deemed not fit for life.

To date, prison officials continue to take every opportunity to address me as spy in hopes of weakening my morale and to escape their own guilty consciences. The Ministry of Intelligence recently denied a request to visit my sick grandmother citing that the Ministry of Intelligence is worried “the Americans will take you away by helicopter.”  This while my request was to visit her under armed guard.

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Mrs. Afkham, has stated that there are no Americans in Iran; however, it is precisely for the reason that I am American that I have been taken hostage by the Ministry of Intelligence and used as a political bargaining tool. Having been born in the US and having spent my entire life there, my citizenship status is clear. My intended visit of only one month to Iran has become 3 years and 6 months, which means that for every day I was allowed to visit my family, has resulted thus far in 42 days of prison under miserable conditions.

Hence it has become very clear to me that those responsible view Iranian-Americans not as citizens or even human beings, but as bargaining chips and tools for propaganda. Considering how little value the Ministry of Intelligence places on my Iranian citizenship and passport, I, too, place little value on them and inform you, effective immediately, that I formally renounce my Iranian citizenship and passport.

My Iranian heritage and affinity for the Iranian people will always be a part of me, but I wish to have no ties to an organization that places so little value on my human rights and dignity and is willing to destroy an entire family for simple propaganda purposes.

Amir Hekmati

 

Detained American Amir Hekmati: Torture, Abuse, and Mistreatment

Detained American Amir Hekmati: Torture, Abuse and Mistreatment; Requests Immediate Deportation  

Dire Conditions Exposed, Renounces Iranian Citizenship, Commits Never to Return to Iran if deported

Amir Hekmati and his family call for Amir’s immediate deportation from Iran. The Arizona-born Amir has renounced his Iranian citizenship (he obtained dual citizenship to visit extended family in Iran). Once deported, he promises never to return. 

For nearly 1,300 days, Amir has suffered in Iran’s Evin Prison, longer than the American hostages of 1979 were held in total. Gathered from accounts by his family in Michigan, his extended family in Iran and from Amir himself, the following details his mistreatment since 2011. 

•    For the first four months, Amir was held in a 3ft. x 3ft. cell with his hands and feet constantly shackled.  

•    Amir was held in solitary confinement for 17 months, which resulted in serious joint discomfort, trouble sitting and severely limited vision.

•    While in solitary, Amir was placed in stress positions for extended periods. Cold, foul-smelling water was repeatedly poured into his cell to prevent him from sleeping. 
        
•    Amir was forcibly given drugs, such as lithium, by prison officials. Officials would intentionally and abruptly stop this medication to induce a painful withdrawal response. 

•    During interrogations, an electric TASER was used on Amir’s kidneys several times, his feet were whipped with cables and he endured mental torture through threats, insults and humiliations.

•    Amir was forced to watch the torture of other inmates.

•    Amir went 20 months without speaking to his family. 

•    Amir is often given misinformation. Amir was falsely told that his mother had been killed in an automobile accident and was then denied the ability to call home to speak with his family.  
        
•    While in solitary, Amir was fed a piece of bread with jam for breakfast, rice for lunch, and a dried beef kabob for supper. In the first four months, he lost 30 pounds. 

•    Amir was forced into making a false confession that he was a spy on Iranian state TV—for the video, Amir was taken to a hotel room and given a change of clothes to cover-up his condition.  

•    During the first two-plus years, Amir met with his lawyer for a total of 5 minutes.  

•    After a 15-minute hearing, Amir was sentenced to death by hanging in 2012—the first American citizen to receive the death sentence in 33 years. It was later annulled due to a lack of evidence.
    
•    More than two years after his spy charges were dropped, Amir’s case was revisited in a secret trial, for which he was not present, and was sentenced to 10 years for “cooperating with a hostile government.” Amir and his family learned of this several months later.
    
•    Despite other prisoners frequently being sanctioned furloughs from Evin to visit relatives, Amir was denied a recent request to visit his sick grandmother in Iran who underwent surgery.

•    Currently, Amir is in a ward of the prison with no heat—experiencing the harsh winter in the mountains where Evin Prison is located—and often sits in the dark, given the prison’s frequent power outages.
        
•    Currently, Amir is housed with hardened criminals and drug dealers, he experiences recurring lung infections, his cell mates have lice, and he is surviving on a diet of only rice and lentils. 

Statement from Amir Hekmati 12-19-2014

Amir has released the following statement to family via phone:

Today my mother told me that men and women -  some my brothers and sister from the Marines and others total strangers - are participating in a hunger strike with me as a sign of solidarity and support. I worry about you suffering, while I'm forced to suffer. She tells me others are showing their support on social media by standing beside me, not forgetting me, and even tweeting personal messages to me. Thank you. Thank you for not forgetting about me. Thank you for taking a stand against the injustice I have faced. Thank you for giving me and my family strength when we need it most. Please continue your efforts.  Please continue to be my voice. Please do not let me be silenced or forgotten. I remain strong and faithful,  knowing I can endure this personal hardship. That's not my challenge. My real challenge comes from being away from my family,  not being able to care for my terminally ill father and, not being able to support my mother as she takes on the role of caretaker.

Statement from Amir Hekmati September 22, 2014

Recently, I have been able to speak with my mother on the phone and she  shared with me the many kind gestures shown to my family during my imprisonment in Iran. Thank you for lifting my family up while I am a world away, unable to be there for them, especially while my father has experienced many difficulties with his health. My mother also told me of the support I've received internationally from people of all ages, religions,  and backgrounds.  I want to thank you all for every thought, prayer,  and all of the effort you have taken to raise awareness and support on my behalf. Your support means a great deal to me. Besides giving me strength, it gives me something more powerful - hope. It is this hope that helps me believe that I will return home to Michigan, to my family, and my life. It is with this that I hope I'll be able to thank you in person one day soon. 

Amir Hekmati

New York Times: Family’s Video Appeals to Iran for Release of American

By Rick Gladstone

Anticipating the arrival of Iran’s president in New York on Monday for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the family of Amir Hekmati, a former United States Marine incarcerated in Tehran for three years, has called attention to the case by releasing a video in which his father, who has terminal brain cancer, appeals to Iranian leaders for Mr. Hekmati’s freedom.

Read the rest here. 

Statement from the Hekmati Family on Amir's 1000th Day Imprisoned

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. 

Statement from the Hekmati Family on Amir's Secret Re-Trial and Sentencing

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.

New York Times: Iran Secretly Convicted Former Marine, Lawyer Says

Iran Secretly Convicted Former Marine, Lawyer Says
By Thomas Erdbrink

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.

Photo

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.