Just a week before the nation pauses to remember the men and women in uniform who gave all, supporters of Marine veteran Amir Hekmati will gather outside of the White House to ensure that he, too, is not forgotten.
Hekmati was seized by the Iranian government in August 2011 while on a trip, with proper visa documents from the Iranian government, to visit relatives in Tehran. He was originally sentenced to death in a quickie trial on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage, retried last month and sentenced to 10 years behind bars for “collaborating” with the U.S. government.
The Flint, Mich., resident has now spent two birthdays in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and has been held by the Islamic Republic more than twice as long as the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostages.
And that’s the somber milestone being marked at Monday’s Washington vigil: 1,000 days in Iranian custody.
Marine veteran Sgt. Terry Mahoney, who served in Operation Desert Storm and Yugoslavia, will stand in vigil for Iraq war veteran Hekmati for 1,000 minutes outside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. beginning at 12:20 a.m. and continuing until 7 p.m.
Those who can’t attend are asked to stand in solidarity with Amir wherever you are by taking a photo with a Free Amir sign and tweeting it with the hashtag #1000Days.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will meet with the Hekmati family while they’re in Washington, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) won’t be able to attend but has submitted a letter of support to be read at the vigil.
“Our two nations have wide differences of opinion, many of them longstanding, others which have emerged more recently,” Levin said last June on the Senate floor. “But innocent citizens of both our nations should not be caught up in matters of state. I urge the Iranian government to recognize the humanitarian necessity of releasing Amir Hekmati and returning him to the Michigan family that has missed him for so long.”
The Hekmati family will attend and speak, as will their congressman, Dan Kildee (D-Mich.).
Supporters in Arizona, the state of Amir’s birth, will hold a vigil outside the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix at 7:30 p.m. local time. Candles and signs will be provided at the House Lawn event.
“While Amir’s family will be advocating for him in front of the White House – we will gather here in in Arizona, where Amir was born, in solidarity to ensure he’s not forgotten,” wrote the organizers, board members of Operation American Patriot. “‘Silence is compliance.’ Please stand united with us and be a voice for Amir.”
(TO HELP: Amir Hekmati has been in Evin prison for 990 days. Use the hashtag #1000Days to stand in solidarity with the Free Amir vigil on Monday, May 19. Log on to FreeAmir.org, where you can write a letter to be delivered to Amir and sign a petition for his release. Purchase “Free Amir” gear or download a free sign to raise awareness about his case, and use the hashtag #FreeAmir when tweeting about it. Help offset the family’s mounting expenses with a donation. Write to President Obama or your member of Congress to lobby for Amir’s release. Follow Twitter updates at @FreeAmirHekmati or show your support on the campaign’s Facebook page.)