Waving signs saying “Free Amir”, a small group in Bay City marked the third anniversary of the arrest of a Flint native in Iran on spying charges.
Amir Hekmati’s older sister Sarah says her family is still struggling to deal with her brother’s predicament.
“Every day we wake up, it’s very surreal and we feel like it’s a bad dream. But it’s not going away,” says Sarah Hekmati, “We can’t believe that has become three years.”
Amir Hekmati was arrested while he was visiting relatives in Iran.
After initially being charged as a spy and sentenced to death, Amir Hekmati, a U.S. Marine veteran, was later convicted of a lesser crime and sentenced to ten years in prison. He’s appealing that sentence.
Sarah Hekmati says her brother was recently moved from a prison for political inmates to a new prison. She says Amir has more privileges now, including the ability to make occasional telephone calls to his family.
“He says his conditions are better and the situation is a little bit better,” says Sarah Hekmati, “But again, it’s prison. It’s not where he wants to be.”
Amir Hekmati’s imprisonment has taken a heavy toll on his family.
His father, Ali Hekmati, was diagnosed with brain cancer not long after his son’s arrest. The older Hekmati was forced to retire from his job as a professor at Mott Community College after suffering several strokes.
Diplomatic efforts continue to win Amir Hekmati’s release.
Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee (D-Flint) says it’s important to keep the Hekmati case “in the forefront” and not allow it to fade as other international events come up. Kildee says he’s recently talked to President Obama about the Hekmati case. He hopes Hekmati’s release will be included in future diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Iran.
The Hekmati family is also approaching Iranian officials.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to attend the opening of the United Nation’s General Assembly next month. At that time, Iran and the United States are scheduled to take part in talks concerning Iran’s nuclear program.
The Hekmati family hopes to meet with members of Iran’s U.N. delegation when the United Nations opens its new session this fall.