The case of a Marine veteran imprisoned for 1,317 days by Iran is getting new publicity traction as Fox News host Greta van Susteren, who championed the case of Marine Andrew Tahmooressi when he was held by Mexico after illegally bringing guns into the country, has started dedicating consistent primetime coverage to Amir Hekmati.
Amir, who served in the Iraq war and worked as a military contractor afterward, was seized while visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011. He has been tortured behind bars and is being held on a 10-year sentence for alleged conspiracy to commit espionage for the country of his birth, the United States.
A State Department official told PJM last week that the nuclear framework agreement with Iran does not include U.S. demands for the return of Amir and three other Americans, and the final deal isn’t expected to include the hostages either.
Saeed Abedini was convicted in January 2013 for establishing Christian house churches. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been held without any notification of the charges against him since July. Bob Levinson went missing off the coast of Iran eight years ago while working as a private investigator; his family later received images of him in captivity.
Fox and MSNBC featured Montel Williams last week to advocate for Amir, and last night his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Ramy Kurdi pleaded on van Susteren’s show for the Marine’s case.
“We respect our government. It’s an honor and privilege to be able to be here and to be able to have a criticism of our government — other people don’t have that luxury,” Ramy said. “Having said that, we respect the efforts they’ve made, directly the State Department, but on our end it’s Congressman Kildee, he’s come through 100 percent for us and he’s been our champion speaking out for Amir.”
“The State Department has been — we’d like them to do more, without question, they’ve shown that they can do more for other people. We’d like them to do everything they can for Amir, because Amir put his life on the line for this country. He’d do it again. Bring him home, he’d do it right now. And we want the State Department to show that same resolve.”
The Hekmatis’ congressman, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), told Fox last night, “We know that when the American people speak up, the Iranian government listens.”
“We encourage people to speak out and your bringing attention to this case makes a big difference. We want people to use a social media use, #freeamirnow to express themselves on this,” he said. “…This is a young man born here in the United States, served his country and Marine Corps. Most likely because of that service is being treated by the Iranian government as a political prisoner. Is an innocent man, he has done nothing wrong and he has simply become a pawn in a geopolitical struggle between Iran and the rest of the world.”
Kildee noted that he’s spoken with President Obama “a number of times” about the case.
“The president understands the urgency of this. I continue to press him and the State Department,” the congressman said. “We don’t want Amir’s freedom to be a condition of this nuclear agreement. But, on the other hand, I as a member of Congress, many of my colleagues, cannot accept an agreement with Iran on its face unless Iran releases the political prisoners, the Americans that it holds and particularly Amir Hekmati. So, I think its right that we negotiate an agreement to limit their nuclear capabilities. But it’s hard to take any agreement with them seriously if they continue to hold innocent people for political purposes.”