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Flint man imprisoned in Iran for 4 years flying to Europe

Jan 17, 2016

A 2001 USMC portrait of Amir Mirza Hekmati.
Credit USMC

(Editor's note: See this post: Follow Amir Hekmati's journey home from an Iranian prison to Michigan for updates as Hekmati makes his way home.)

The AP reports the Swiss plane carrying Amir Hekmati and other Americans from Iran has landed in Geneva, Switzerland.

Amir Hekmati is coming home.

After spending more than four years in an Iranian prison, the former U.S. Marine from Flint, is now sitting on a plane flying to Europe.  He’s part of a multi-layered prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Iran. 

In addition to Hekmati, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose name had not been previously made public, were freed from custody. A fifth American was released separately.

In exchange, the U.S. pardoned or dropped charges against seven Iranians - six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens - accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions.

Amir Hekmati’s family has spent the past four years working for his release. They issued a statement this morning after it was confirmed:

Today, our brother, son and friend Amir Hekmati has been released from Iran. We have now been officially told that he is on a plane leaving the country. 

It is hard to put into words what our family feels right now. But we remain in hopeful anticipation until Amir is in our arms. As many of you know, Amir’s father is very ill and soon he will embrace his son once more.

We are incredibly grateful for today’s news. We thank our government, and we thank all of you whose thoughts and prayers helped us tremendously since Amir was taken from us in 2011. 

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) (left) seen here sitting with the Hekmati family on Saturday as they followed the news of Amir Hekmati's release
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Congressman Dan Kildee has spent much of the past 24 hours with the Hekmati family.   He also issued a statement a short time ago:

“Amir Hekmati is coming home. I am overcome with emotion that after four and a half years, this terrible ordeal is ending and the Hekmati family will soon be reunited with Amir. We have worked so hard to see this day happen. I am incredibly grateful to everyone, including my staff, who worked tirelessly to secure Amir’s release.

“I am grateful to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the entire Administration for never giving up on Amir and the other Americans that were held in Iran. Their tireless work should be commended."

Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are welcoming the release of Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini in the U.S.-Iran prisoner swap.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says the exchange shows "diplomacy can work even in this volatile region of the world."

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio and other Republicans say Americans should never have been captured in the first place. In Iowa, Rubio blamed the Obama administration's willingness to do prisoner swaps in the past, saying governments take Americans hostage because they believe they can gain concessions from the Obama administration.

*This post was last updated at 12:56 p.m.