U.N. envoy asked to help free American held in Iran

Relatives of Amir Hekmati, a former Marine imprisoned in Iran for more than two years on spying charges, asked the United States ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday to press for his release when Iran’s presidential delegation visits the General Assembly next week.

Representative Daniel T. Kildee, the Michigan Democrat who represents the family’s district, sent a letter to Ambassador Samantha Power asking that she “explore all available opportunities” with colleagues from countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran to seek Mr. Hekmati’s return on humanitarian grounds. The United States and Iran severed diplomatic ties more than three decades ago after the Islamic Revolution.

The General Assembly meeting, which will be attended by Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, represented what Mr. Kildee called “a particularly auspicious opportunity.”

Mr. Hekmati, 30, an American of Iranian descent from Flint, Mich., was arrested in Iran in August 2011, during what his family has said was an innocuous visit to his grandmother. He was charged with espionage and sentenced to death.

His sentence was overturned and a new trial was ordered but has not been scheduled, and the exact nature of the accusations against him has never been explained.

He has spent most of his incarceration in Evin Prison in Tehran, including months of solitary confinement, and his case has become another irritant in Iran’s estranged relationship with the United States.

In a letter smuggled from prison to Secretary of State John Kerry, reported by his family last week, Mr. Hekmati said he had been falsely accused and denied his legal rights.

His family has held out hope that Mr. Rouhani would free Mr. Hekmati as a gesture of his sincerity in seeking better relations with the United States.

The family has also directly appealed to the Iranian authorities for compassion because Mr. Hekmati’s father, a college professor, has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Mr. Kildee raised the father’s illness in his letter to Ms. Power, saying “It is imperative that Mr. Hekmati be reunited with his family” for that reason.

By The New York Times


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