Iran

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

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.”

Hekmati family

On this day three years ago, Iranian authorities arrested a U.S. Marine veteran from Flint and charged him with spying.

His family and friends are holding a rally today to mark his three years in an Iranian jail cell.

Amir Hekmati was visiting relatives when he was arrested. His family and supporters insist he’s innocent.

Congressman Dan Kildee (D-Flint) says he’s talked with President Obama about Hekmati’s case as recently as two weeks ago. He wants the administration to pressure the Iranian government to release Hekmati.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee is concerned the current crisis in Iraq might pull the U.S. back into that country.

Sunni militants have seized control of several northern Iraqi cities and are threatening to attack Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.

The Obama administration recently hinted at possible options to help support the Iraqi government.

Hekmati family

DETROIT (AP) - A news agency reports that a retired U.S. Marine from Michigan has requested a new trial in Iran, where he has been imprisoned since 2011 after being accused of spying.

Thirty-one-year-old Amir Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and was raised in the Flint, Michigan, area.

He was arrested in August 2011, then tried, convicted and sentenced to death for spying. Iran's Supreme Court annulled the death sentence, and the country's Revolutionary Court resentenced him to 10 years in prison for "cooperating with hostile governments"

The Hekmati family

The family and friends of a retired U.S. Marine from Flint are taking their campaign to gain his release from an Iranian prison cell to the White House on Monday.

Iranian officials arrested Amir Hekmati nearly three years ago while he was visiting relatives.

Marine veteran gets 10-year sentence in Iran

Apr 12, 2014
freeamir.org

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An Iranian news agency is reporting that an appeals court has overturned a death sentence of an American man convicted of working for the CIA, instead sentencing him to 10 years in prison. 

The semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Saturday that lawyer Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei says a Revolutionary Court issued the verdict for U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati. Tabatabaei described the verdict as final.

Mark Halonen / Brighton High School

Maybe more than any other, high school can be a time when what you choose to wear has a huge impact on your sense of identity.

As students take their first steps into adulthood, they walk a fine line between fitting in with their peers and developing a unique sense of self.

Earlier this fall, a group of AP language students at Brighton High School were asked to read a memoir by Iranian author Azar Nafisi. The book detailed the experiences of women during that country's religious revolution, including dealing with new standards of modesty in the way they dressed.

To experience the material first-hand, several girls in the class in Brighton chose to spend a full school day wearing hijabs, the head-scarves worn by Muslim women in many parts of the world.

The exercise gave students a chance to learn about an unfamiliar culture and religion. But in a school community where no students and only one teacher outwardly practice Islam, wearing the scarves was a good way to draw curious looks, questions and a few unfriendly comments.

Teacher Diana Mason and three students at Brighton who took part recently told Stateside about the experience.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. Senate Defense Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan says he supports the agreement between Iran and six leading nations that curbs some of Iran's nuclear programs in exchange for the easing of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.

The Democratic lawmaker said Sunday that the interim agreement "is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran's nuclear weapon ambition."

courtesy of FreeAmir.org

A man from Flint, Michigan has been held prisoner in Iran for two years.

Amir Hekmati traveled to Iran to visit his grandmother in 2011. He was seized by the Iranian government and imprisoned. They accuse Hekmati –a former Marine- of spying for the CIA. He and the U.S. Government deny it.

Democratic U.S. Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI), has been leading an effort calling for Amir Hekmati to be released. Kildee joined us on Stateside today.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In honor of July 4th, we asked immigrants across Michigan what America means to them. Linda Steinke shared her story with us.

Her family came to the U.S. from Iran in the 1970s when her father had the opportunity to work in the auto industry.

Steinke is petite, with striking, honey-brown eyes. And these days she works as interpreter at medical appointments.

"I not only interpret the language, but I interpret the culture," Steinke explains.

Courtesy: Free Amir / Freeamir.org

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 / Freeamir.org

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.

freeamir.org

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.

 A state House committee takes up legislation tomorrow to prevent companies with ties to Iran from doing business with the state of Michigan.

Republican lawmaker Marty Knollenberg admits he doesn’t know of any Michigan businesses working with Iran. But he says it sends an important message.

“This brings attention to the problems of Iran," says Knollenberg, " They are a threat. They are a rogue nation.  We need to put this issue on the forefront.”  

Knollenberg says state and federal sanctions may help prevent the Iranian government from developing nuclear weapons. 

courtesy of FreeAmir.org

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.

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."