Amir Hekmati

Amir Hekmati, a U.S. Marine veteran from Flint, spent more than four years imprisoned in Iran. The Iranian government accused him of spying for the U.S. government. He was arrested while he was visiting his grandmother in Tehran. He and four other U.S. citizens were released on January 16, 2016 as a result of an agreement made between the U.S. and Iran. His release comes after years of protests from his family and the state and federal government for his freedom. While held in Iran, his family created the website to spread awareness about his imprisonment. Read our coverage of Hekmati below.

In a few weeks, a U.S. District judge will hold a hearing on a Michigan case that challenges the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. On today's show: we explored the implications the case could have in Michigan and across the nation.

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Amir Hekmati.
Released by the family

Amir Hekmati is a former U.S. Marine who has been held in an Iranian prison since 2011.

He's accused of being an American spy. He was tried and sentenced to death in 2012, but a higher court overturned that sentence and he is now awaiting a retrial.

His Flint, Michigan family has been working on his release ever since he was detained.

Courtesy: Free Amir /

Although Amir Hekmati remains in police custody in Tehran, the most recent updates on the case provide some hope.

Since Michigan Radio’s Stateside report this past Wednesday, Amir Hekmati's sister, Sarah, met with the Swiss ambassador to Tehran. The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980.

According to a MLive report by Blake Thorne, Sarah Hekmati said on Thursday that the Swiss ambassador indicated that Iranian officials may revisit Hekmati’s case. Sarah elaborated:

"She felt like the fact that he went from a death sentence to now an open-ended case was good news."

At the meeting, Sarah gave the ambassador letters and books that she hopes can be delivered to her brother.

Two years ago, Amir Hekmati was accused of spying for the CIA on a visit to Iran to see his grandmother.

Courtesy: Free Amir /

626 days and counting. That’s how long a young Iranian-American man from Flint has been in police custody in Tehran.

Two years ago, Amir Hekmati traveled to Iran to visit his grandmother. Iranian officials accused Hekmati of spying for the CIA, seizing the ex-Marine and throwing him into prison.

In January 2012, Hekmati was sentenced to death for his alleged conspiring with the U.S. government.

Later, the Iranian Supreme Court overturned his sentence, but Hekmati is still waiting in prison for a retrial — with no apparent end in sight.

But Hekmati’s family, based in Michigan, hasn’t stopped fighting for Amir’s release.

Since his arrest in 2011, Amir’s family has posted pictures in Times Square, hosted art exhibitions in Detroit, and urged state officials in Washington to move on the case.

“We’re not getting a lot of movement from Iran,” Amir’s sister Sarah Hekmati told us on Stateside. “But we’re trying to raise awareness of the situation.”

Kildee says one way Iran can show it can be trusted to work with the U.S. is if Iran releases Amir Hekmati, a Flint man who has been imprisoned in Iran for nearly three years. A retired U.S. marine, Hekmati was arrested on charges of spying while visiting
Hekmati family

DETROIT (AP) - The family of a former Marine detained in Iran for nearly two years says he's finally receiving visits from an uncle there and has been able to send letters to immediate family members in the United States.

The Flint Journal reports Amir Hekmati's family holds out hope the developments could signal some movement toward the 29-year-old's release and eventual return to Michigan.

Sarah Hekmati says the letters are "the first time he's been directly able to express his thoughts." Hekmati's family says he went to Iran in 2011 to visit his grandmothers.

Efforts for Freeing Son Inspired Music at Mott

Dec 6, 2012
courtesy of

Musical inspiration comes in a variety of ways.  For Dr. Mathew Packer, it came from the imprisoned son of a colleague at Mott Community College.

Amir Hekmati was taken prisoner in Iran – accused of being a spy after travelling there to visit his ailing grandmother.  His family is now working to get him freed.

Packer, a music professor at Mott, heard about the family’s efforts to free him and created a song called “I WILL FLY” which is being performed and recorded for sale to benefit the Hekmati family on Friday afternoon.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Supporters of Amir Hekmati held an art exhibit and fundraiser this weekend in Detroit.

Hekmati’s family is stepping up its public campaign to free the 29-year-old Flint Marine who’s been in prison in Iran for over a year.

The exhibition was held at Detroit’s 555 gallery. That’s a former police precinct turned artists’ space.

The idea was the brainchild of artist Manal Kadry.

Kadry said she wanted to do something to bring attention to Hekmati’s plight, in a medium she was comfortable with.

Stateside: Art exhibit addresses Michigan detainee

Nov 15, 2012 / 555 Gallery

Opening this weekend at the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios is “Jailed Humanity: In Support of an American's Quest for Freedom from an Iranian Prison."

The exhibit aims to raise awareness of detainee Amir Hekmati’s situation.

Upon visiting family in Iran, Flint resident Hekmati was detained by the Iranian government and accused of being a spy.

In January, Hekmati was sentenced to death. Two months later, Iran’s Supreme Court found the verdict against Hekmati was incomplete and overturned the death sentence.

To this day, Hekmati sits in an Iranian prison, awaiting a new trial.

cncphotos / flickr

Every Wednesday Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about what's been going on in the news when it comes to Michigan politics. This week they talked about a Michigan family's request to release a Marine Veteran imprisoned in Iran in order to see his ailing father in Flint, where the state's incarceration system stands when it comes to inmates releases in Genesse County and Attorney General Bill Schuette's stance on juvenile lifers, and the Kwame Kilpatrick trial.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A small crowd gathered on the Mott Community College campus last night in Flint.

They were there to show support for a local man held in Iran on charges he is a spy for the CIA.

Friends and family of Amir Hekmati took part in the candlelight vigil.    Hekmati was arrested on spying charges a year ago.  A U.S. Marine veteran, Hekmati was visiting his grandmother and other relatives in Iran, when he was arrested.   

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan Attorney General fights to keep juvenile lifers behind bars

"State Attorney General Bill Schuette has not given up on trying to keep so-called juvenile lifers behind bars. Next week, he plans to file to join a case before the state Court of Appeals involving a 21-year-old man convicted in 2006 of assisting a murder. The US Supreme Court in June struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles as unconstitutional. Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says the attorney general believes the ruling should not apply to people who are already serving sentences. The ACLU of Michigan says the state cannot continue to keep people in jail without a new hearing if the US Supreme Court says the sentence is cruel and unusual. Michigan has more than 360 people serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18," Jake Neher reports.

Flint family pleas for Marine's release

"The family of a Marine veteran  imprisoned in Iran for more than a year, says time is running out for the family to reunite. The Marine's father, a professor at Mott Community College, has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. Amir Hekmati is still being held in Iran on charges of spying for the United States. Both his family and the US government say he is not a spy. But their pleas for his release haven't worked - although his death sentence was overturned by an Iranian court. The family is pleading for their son's release while Amir's father is still alive. The Hekmatis are holding a candlelight vigil in Flint today. They hope their case will be discussed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he's in New York this week for a meeting at the UN," Kate Wells reports.

Research buoy shows wind in Lake Michigan averages 22 mph

"Wind speed in the middle of Lake Michigan appears to be some of the best in the state for developing wind energy. That’s according to preliminary data from a high-tech research buoy that’s been anchored there all summer. Early data show the average offshore wind speed is at least 22 miles an hour. Wind farms have been built on land in Michigan where wind speeds average around 17 miles an hour. The research buoy will continue collecting data through December. Ultimately it could determine whether an offshore wind farm is viable in Lake Michigan," Lindsey Smith reports.

The family of Amir  Hekmati is marking the one-year anniversary of his imprisonment in Iran.

The Flint native and Marine veteran was seized by Iranian authorities while visiting his grandmother. He was charged with spying for the CIA and sentenced to death.

That sentence was lifted, but there's no sign of progress in gaining his release

Hekmati's brother-in-law, Ramy Kurdi, says the family is being careful not to offend Iranian officials by emphasizing his innocence.

Courtesy: Free Amir /

Supporters of a Michigan man who's been held for a year in Iran will hold a benefit concert in Flint tomorrow.

The Iranian government accuses Amir Hekmati of working for the CIA. The U.S. government denies that.

Ramy Kurdi is Hekmati's brother-in-law, and helped organize the concert. He says money raised from ticket sales will help the family with their legal fees. But he says it's just as much about raising awareness.

"We'd like people to know who Amir is, and that's not a secret," said Kurdi. "He's an outstanding person, outstanding son, citizen, brother, uncle, friend."

Hekmati was sentenced to death in January. There have been reports out of Iran that its Supreme Court has ordered a retrial. But family members say they have yet to get an official notice of that.

The concert is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the University of Michigan-Flint theater.

courtesy of

An Iranian semiofficial news agency reports that the country's Supreme Court has ordered the retrial of a Marine veteran who was sentenced to death for working for the CIA.

Amir Hekmati's family lives in Flint. 

The Monday report by ISNA quotes state prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei as saying the Supreme Court has found shortcomings in the case and sent it for review by another court.

In January an Iranian court sentenced Arizona-born Amir Hekmati to death for allegedly being a CIA spy.

The Michigan man accused by Iran of being a CIA spy had ties to a gaming company. Those ties could help explain his detention. The Flint Journal reports Amir Hekmati was listed as a main contact in a Pentagon language-training contract by Kuma Games. Kuma Games produces the game "Assault on Iran."

The New York Times says this tie could help explain why Iran has suspicions about Hekmati. Iran has detained Hekmati and has sentenced him to death. Hekmati and is family say he was visiting family in Iran when he was detained.

Hekmati was born in Arizona and grew up in the Flint area. His father is a professor at a community college in Flint.

Iran's state radio says a court has convicted a Michigan man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death.

Monday's report said Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was also convicted of trying to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism.

The report didn't say when the verdict was issued. Under Iranian law, he has 20 days to appeal.

Iran charges that as a former U.S. Marine, Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission.

His father, a professor at a community college in Flint, Mich., has said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.

The 28-year-old was born in Arizona and graduated from high school in Michigan. His family is of Iranian origin.

Amir Hekmati.
Released by the family

The Michigan family of an Iranian-American detained in Iran for four months on espionage charges says he's not getting adequate legal representation. 

The family of Amir Hekmati said in a statement that his "only advocate in Iran is a government-appointed lawyer who he first met on the day of his trial." The statement says the family has tried to hire "at least 10 different attorneys ... but to no avail."