Congressman seeks American’s release from Iran

Detroit— A Michigan congressman Wednesday asked Secretary of State John Kerry to push for the release of an ex-Marine held in Iran on spying charges for about two years, including 16 months in solitary confinement.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, released a copy of a letter he sent to Kerry in which Kildee asks Kerry to make sure his department “continues to make reuniting Amir Hekmati with his family a top priority.”

Hekmati was born in Arizona and grew up in the Flint area, where his parents and sister live. The 29-year-old carries U.S. and Iranian passports.

“Mr. Hekmati’s father was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and in Persian culture, the eldest son is responsible for his family if his father is ailing,” Kildee wrote. “Thus, it is imperative that Mr. Hekmati, as the eldest son, be released to care for his father, mother and sisters.”

Iranian authorities arrested him during a visit to his grandmother’s. The United States has repeatedly denied he was spying.

His sister, Sarah Hekmati, said July 5 her brother had been faring much better recently, meeting family members, exercising and receiving access to books.

“Multiple developments have made us optimistic that we can realize a diplomatic, peaceful and humanitarian resolution to this matter,” Kildee said. “In March of 2012, Iran’s Supreme Court overturned Mr. Hekmati’s death sentence. After enduring 16 months of solitary confinement, Mr. Hekmati is now in an area that allows him to interact with other prisoners.”

The Associated Press asked the State Department for comment in an email Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis, when Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy and kept 52 Americans captive for 444 days. Switzerland represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran.

“We appreciate that this is a delicate matter, but all faiths and cultures can agree that families, particularly during times of illness, deserve to be together,” Kildee wrote in his letter to Kerry. “Please explore all opportunities to reunite Mr. Hekmati with his ailing father, mother and sisters.”

The Associated Press

 

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