Flint family of man imprisoned in Iran makes plea to Iranian government

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012120925051

1:11 PM, September 25, 2012

By Elisha Anderson

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Amir Hekmati’s family tried working through Iranian government channels, requested to meet with Iran’s president and wrote letters to court officials in an attempt to bring him home.

When that didn’t work, they started talking to the media, hoping Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will learn about Hekmati’s case when he’s in the U.S. this week. They want Ahmadinejad, who is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York Wednesday, to find out what is happening with Hekmati when Ahmadinejad returns to Iran.

“It appears whoever is managing his case right now is not giving him the due process that exists even within (its) own judicial system,” his sister Sarah Hekmati, 31, of Lathrup Village, said at a news conference today.

Amir Hekmati, 29, has been in prison in Iran since August 2011, when he was accused of working for the CIA. It’s an accusation his family and the U.S. government say is false. The U.S. State Department is urging the Iranian government to release Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who grew up in Flint.

A day after Amir Hekmati’s father talked to the Free Press from hishospital bed in Novi, Sarah Hekmati and her husband Ramy Kurdi, 32, made their plea to bring Amir Hekmati home at a news conference held at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (CAIR) in Southfield.

CAIR is assisting the Hekmati family and has worked with Iranian officials in the past when other Americans have been imprisoned there.

“If the Iranian officials will turn Amir over to us, then I am willing, and we at CAIR are willing, to fly to Iran to bring Amir back home,” Executive Director Dawud Walid said. “We hope that the Iranian government will take this offer from us.”

Amir Hekmati wanted to visit his ill grandmother in August 2011 and entered Iran legally, his family said. He knew he was taking a small risk going to the country for the first time in his life, but told his mother he thought it was worth it to see his grandma before she died.

Hekmati spent two weeks with relatives before he disappeared. His family didn’t know where he was for four months.

The first confirmation they had that Amir Hekmati was still in Iran was a video of him confessing to be a CIA spy — he had lost about 40 pounds by that time, his family said.

“We know that this confession was given under duress,” Sarah Hekmati said.

His family and the U.S. government say the charges are categorically false.

Amir Hekmati had been kept in solidarity confinement. His family hasn’t heard from him since the end of June, so they don’t know if that is still the case or what his current conditions are.

Hekmati’s mother and grandmothers have been able to see him. The family estimates they’ve probably only spent four hours total with him total since he was detained more than a year ago.

Amir Hekmati has no idea that doctors discovered a brain tumor in his father, his family said. The family fears the elder Hekmati could die before he gets the chance to be reunited with his son.

“We hope that the Iranian authorities that are here in the U.S. can hear our plea,” Sarah Hekmati said.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Mott Community College. The community is invited to attend. It will be held between the MCC Library and the Mott Memorial Building, located on the maincampus, 1401 E. Court St. in Flint.

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