Marine veteran Amir Hekmati has “reluctantly and temporarily” put on hold his hunger strike in protest of more than three years of detention by Iran.
A family spokesman said Amir was apparently pressured by prison officials to suspend his hunger strike in return for “certain steps to have his case revisited by appropriate Iranian government authorities.”
In a letter to President Obama this week, Amir asked for the commander in chief’s help “to end the nightmare I have been living” — more than three years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison on trumped-on espionage accusations.
“I am a son, a brother, an uncle and a man. I am an American who deserves basic human rights and his freedom,” Amir wrote. “Instead, I feel as if I have been left behind.”
Amir had started a hunger strike after his lawyer’s latest attempts to free the Marine failed.
Soon after the story broke, Amir’s Marine brothers began volunteering to fast in solidarity.
In less than a day, enough volunteers had pledged daylong strikes booked solid through February. In spreading the campaign across social media, the goal was at least 3,000 hunger strikers by Christmas.
“Amir and the Hekmati family deeply appreciate all of those who have joined Amir in solidarity. All of those who are helping to free Amir,” the spokesman said. “The family, particularly Amir’s ailing father, is deeply moved by the thousands who have joined the campaign.”
Amir plans to resume his hunger strike “if real action is not taken on his case with real results.”
Born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and a resident of Flint, Mich., Amir served in the Iraq War and was honorably discharged as a sergeant in 2005. He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
The 31-year-old was seized by Iranian authorities on a 2011 trip to visit extended family, before he was due to start economics studies at the University of Michigan.
Amir was able to dictate the letter to Obama in a phone call home.
“As you are well aware, I have been detained in Evin Prison in Iran for more than three years. In fact, my mother informs me that as of today, December 15, 2014, it has been more than 1,200 days. One-thousand and two-hundred days, which have included solitary confinement and mistreatment. I remain confined without a fair trial and no idea or understanding of what is to be my fate,” Amir wrote.
“Every day, I wake hoping that there is news of my release. Every night, I go to sleep disappointed to mark another day that I am still behind these prison walls, away from my family, friends and meaningful human contact. Away from my father who is gravely ill. There is no end in sight.”
Despite all that he’s endured, Amir continues in the letter, “I hold on to my innocence and the knowledge that I was wrongly imprisoned. I plead my case to all who will listen. But, unfortunately, my pleas fall on deaf ears. As hope fades, I remain alone and weakened.”
“With no answer in sight, I am deeply concerned that my future has become tied to the nuclear negotiations with Iran, with which I have no connection, influence or leverage. I can draw no other conclusion, as each opportunity for a legal or humanitarian remedy is ignored, delayed or denied,” he wrote.
Neither the White House nor the State Department has publicly said a word about Amir since the letter was sent, except in a response to his hometown paper.
In a statement to The Flint Journal, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Amir’s letter had been received at the White House.
“We again ask Iranian authorities to permit a consular visit by officials of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to determine the well-being of Mr. Hekmati and to provide access to medical treatment,” Meehan said.
“We continue to urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Hekmati so that he may be reunited with his family as soon as possible,” she added. “We also continue to urge the Iranian government to immediately release the other detained U.S. citizens in Iran, Jason Rezaian and Saeed Abedini, and to assist us in locating Robert Levinson. It is time for all of them to be reunited with their families.”