April 16, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Amir Hekmati, an Iranian American and Marine veteran who has been detained in Iran since August 2011, has been given a ten-year prison term on charges of “practical collaboration with the American government.”
In January 2012, Hekmati was convicted and sentenced to death, a sentence which was later overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court. Hekmati was secretly retried and sentenced with a ten-year prison term in December. His lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, only recently learned this information and said that Hekmati himself never knew about the retrial, conviction, or sentence.
Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. After serving in the Marines, he traveled to Iran to visit his grandmother. Iranian authorities detained him shortly after his arrival on espionage charges. The U.S. government and his family have emphatically denied the allegations.
“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,” the Hekmati family said in a Facebook statement on April 12 following the reports of the secret trial.
Hekmati’s father, a professor at Mott Community College in Michigan, has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and is recovering from a recent stroke. “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,” his family wrote in the statement.
Congressman Dan Kildee, (D-MI/5th) also released a statement on April 12, calling the charges against Hekmati “categorically false.” Kildee has represented the Hekmati family in Congress and in July 2013, he sent a bipartisan letter, supported by 112 members of Congress, to Secretary Kerry urging the State Department to explore all options to secure Hekmati’s release.
Hekmati “is innocent and has committed no crime,” Kildee said in his statement. “He is an American citizen who, with the permission of the Iranian government, traveled to Iran to simply visit his grandmother for the first time. He has been wrongfully imprisoned for 956 days.”
Under Iran’s penal code, after the first three years of sentences served by prisoners like Hekmati, lawyers can file requests for early release. Tabatabaei said that his current priority is to seek an early release so that Hekmati could go home, and he is thus not necessarily challenging the accusations. Considering the time Hekmati has already served, the release would be in August.
As an organization that represents the interests of Iranian Americans, PAAIA seeks to protect Iranian Americans’ right to immunity from harassment and unlawful detention when traveling outside the United States, including Iran. As such, PAAIA has called on the authorities in Iran to ensure Hekmati’s safety and to ensure that his rights are safeguarded, consistent with international norms, and has also urged Secretary of State Kerry to make his repatriation a priority.
Click here to read PAAIA’s statement on the detention of Amir Hekmati.