Lawmakers Join in Solidarity with Families of American Detainees in Iran

***UPDATE: On Monday, June 15th, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.233 urging for the release of Americans detained in Iran including Iranian Americans Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian and Saeed Abedini. 

“Today Congress spoke with one voice to tell Iran that it cannot continue to hold American political prisoners like Amir Hekmati if they are serious about reengaging the global community,” said Rep. Kildee (D-MI) who introduced the legislation and represents Hekmati’s district. “The world needs to know Amir’s name because he is a real person – not just a pawn in a geopolitical struggle between Iran and the rest of the world. He is innocent, yet has been held prisoner in Iran for 1,386 days. It is long past time for him to be reunited with his family in Michigan.” ***

June 4, 2015, Washington, DC – The family members of three American detainees in Iran and a missing fourth American, came together for the first time Tuesday to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing preceding the markup of the bipartisan measure calling on Iran to immediately release all United States citizens missing or detained within its borders.   

The hearing, chaired by Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), was attended by the family members of Marine Veteran Amir Hekmati, Pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post Correspondent Jason Rezaian, and former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI),  who introduced the legislation last April and represents Hekmati’s home district, called for a clear distinction to be made between the release of American prisoners in Iran and the impeding nuclear negotiations that are scheduled to expire on June 30th.

“We never want to be in a position where we are offering concessions regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities or economic sanctions in return for the freedom of innocent Americans,” said Kildee during the hearing. “If Iran wants to be taken seriously in the global community, Iran has to realize that it cannot hold political prisoners like Amir Hekmati.”

Sarah Hekmati, sister of Amir Hekmati, gave an emotional testimony recounting her family’s anguish since Hekmati was first detained in 2011.

“For over three years, our family has been living a nightmare,” said Hekmati. She tearfully described the rapidly deteriorating state of her father’s terminal brain cancer, explaining that he “holds on, hoping to hold Amir in his arms again, but fearful that he will not.”

Ali Rezaian, brother of Jason Rezaian, offered his gratitude to the committee for the attention being paid to their family members, and shared his optimism for a timely release of all American prisoners in Iran.

 “I am convinced that our efforts will soon lead to his release,” said Rezaian, “as well as the release of other Americans who have been unjustly held.”

Following the hearing, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Kildee resolution. “This Committee stands in solidarity with each of the Americans detained or missing in Iran,” remarked Representative Royce following the resolution’s passage. “The resolution we have passed rightly points out that if Iran truly wishes to engage constructively with the rest of the world regarding its nuclear program, step one would be releasing these Americans and allowing them to be reunited with their loved ones.”

U.S. officials, including President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, have repeatedly called on the government of Iran to release Hekmati, Abedini, and Rezaian as well as to cooperate with the U.S. to find Robert Levinson, a private investigator who went missing in Iran in 2007.

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