Yellow Ribbon Project

Senate Dem to Kerry: 'Redouble Efforts and Aggressively Push for Swift Release' of Americans in Iran


A Connecticut Democrat has stepped in on behalf of a Michigan Marine veteran who has been unjustly imprisoned by the Islamic Republic for 1,226 days.

Born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and a resident of Flint, Mich., Amir Hekmati 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. He was originally sentenced to death; that was rescinded and he’s currently being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on a charge of conspiracy to commit espionage.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he reached out to Acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is leading U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, regarding Amir’s “troubling” detention.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry today, Blumenthal noted that Amir “has been held by the Iranian government without a fair trial, at times suffering solitary confinement and deplorable conditions including abuse and torture.”

“Recent reports by Iranian officials that his case will be revisited do little to assuage my concerns over his unjust imprisonment. Unfortunately, he is one of a number of Americans detained or missing in Iran, along with Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, and Robert Levinson,” the senator continued. “As you are aware, the Iranian government has a brutal record of abrogating the human rights both of Americans it has illegally detained and of its own people, having conducted over 850 executions in the past year alone.”

Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, was arrested without charge or explanation in July. Abedini, a pastor accused of crimes against the national security of Iran in connection with his Christian missionary work there, has been held since 2012. Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent and father of seven, was working as a private detective on a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian resort port in the Persian Gulf with looser entrance requirements, when he disappeared on March 8, 2007.

“Amir Hekmati has served our nation honorably as a United States Marine. I ask you to forcefully hold Iran accountable for Mr. Hekmati’s welfare while he is in its custody,” Blumenthal wrote. “I also ask you to redouble efforts and aggressively push for the swift release and return home of all Americans illegally detained in Iran. No American citizen should be subjected to the treatment currently being suffered by these individuals and their families.”

“While I am encouraged by the gravity with which the Department of State appears to be pursuing this concern, I ask that you keep me fully apprised of any developments with regard to Mr. Hekmati’s case.”

In a letter to President Obama last month, 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.”

Despite all that he’s endured, Amir said in the letter dictated over the phone to his family, “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.

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.