Iranian Americans Seriously Concerned About the Detention of Amir Hekmati in Iran


Vali NasrJanuary 5, 2012, Washington, D.C. – The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the Iranian American community at large are seriously concerned about the fate of Amir Hekmati, an Iranian American ex-Marine, who was detained in Iran in August of 2011. 

Hekmati, 28, was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan.  According to media reports, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2001 after graduating from High School and was deployed in 2004 for a six-month tour in Iraq.  After leaving the service, he started his own linguistics company and contracted his services to military as well as civilian businesses.   

According to his family, Hekmati traveled to Iran in the summer of 2011 for the first time to visit extended family, including two elderly grandmothers.  Iranian authorities detained him shortly after his arrival.  His family members say that they were told to remain silent about his arrest if they want to see him released.    

Iran’s Mehr news agency reported on January 2nd that the trial of Hekmati accused of spying for the CIA is awaiting the judge’s verdict.  His family has emphatically denied the allegations.  In a statement provided to the Associated Press on January 4th, Hekmati’s mother appealed to Iranian authorities to treat her son fairly and provide him due process. “It is clear to me and our entire family that Amir is speaking under duress,” said Behnaz Hekmati. “The statement from the courts that Amir planned on permanently leaving the United States to reside in Iran is totally false. It is an indication that he is not speaking freely but being forced to say something that isn’t true.”  

The U.S. State Department has also denied the charges and has asked Iran to free Hekmati without delay.  They are providing consular services to his family and have requested access to Hekmati through the Embassy of Switzerland, which serves as the “Protecting Power” of the United States in Iran.  State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday that the Swiss have been denied access to Hekmati three times.

As an organization that represents the interests of Iranian Americans, PAAIA is extremely concerned about the wellbeing of Amir Hekmati.   PAAIA seeks to protect Iranian Americans’ right to immunity from harassment and unlawful detention when traveling outside the United States.  As such, PAAIA calls on the authorities in Iran to ensure Hekmati’s safety and to ensure that his rights are safeguarded, consistent with international norms.  We also urge the U.S. State Department to continue to work for his repatriation.

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