Iran, release detained Michiganian

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2013/09/24/iran-can-extend-small-olive-branch-releasing-detained-michiganian/
Sep 24, 2013, 5:05 am
Iran, release detained Michiganian

By Dawud Walid

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has come to the United Nations to present a new, less boorish face for his country to the world. I hope that he will listen to renewed calls for Iran to release Michiganian Amir Hekmati, who has been denied due process in Iran on an espionage charge for two years.

Rouhani is attempting to present himself as a moderate, which is not difficult considering the tone of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad. He recently released 80 political prisoners, extended Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jewish people, and brought Iran’s only Jewish member of parliament with him to New York. He also exchanged letters with President Obama, which some analysts view as a positive step in potentially thawing relations between our two countries. Perhaps, Rouhani can also show that he’s serious about improving relations by releasing Hekmati.

A bipartisan coalition of 64 congressmen are calling for the release of Hekmati, an ex-U.S. Marine, while Rouhani is at the U.N. I join them in reiterating my two-year call for Hekmati to be given due process or be immediately released.

The Obama and Rouhani administrations have deep philosophical differences on a number of issues. The tension and mistrust between America and Iran cannot be solved with some nice gestures and a few flowery speeches. It is my hope, however, that our nations can improve relations based on respecting international law, eschewing support for extremists, and promoting cooperation among nations.

Releasing Hekmati would be a nice olive branch, though a tiny one, that the Iranians could extend to us.

Flint family still fighting for son’s release from Iranian prison

http://www.freep.com/article/20130520/NEWS06/305200022/Hekmati-Iran-prison-family-release

May 20, 2013

By Elisha Anderson 

Detroit Free Press Staff

FLINT — Behnaz Hekmati remembers the call she got from her son saying he was planning to return to home from his trip to Iran.

Nearly two years later, the Flint mother is still waiting for his return.

Amir Hekmati, a 29-year-old U.S. veteran, has been locked up since August 2011, accused of being a CIA spy — a claim which his family and the U.S. government repeatedly have denied.

“This disaster changed our life,” his mother said.

His family said Hekmati went to Iran to visit his two grandmothers who live there and was taken by force during the third, and final, week of his visit. He appeared on video about four months later in Iranian custody, and since then, his family has been working to secure his release.

On Wednesday, his older sister, Sarah Hekmati, 32, returned from Washington, D.C. — her fourth visit there — after meeting with officials, including the ambassador of Switzerland to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, who is representing U.S. interests in Iran.

Sarah Hekmati said she was told during the trip that Iranian authorities may revisit her brother’s case, which makes her optimistic.

“I feel hopeful,” she said. “On the U.S. end, we have members of the State Department, U.S. government officials and a lot of bipartisan support.”

Dealing with the ordeal

The situation has taken its toll — emotionally and financially — on the family.

“I really, really miss him,” Behnaz Hekmati told the Free Press from her home in Flint earlier this month. “I don’t know how long we can take this.”

She hasn’t seen her son in almost a year since her last trip to visit him in prison in Iran, but he is on her mind constantly.

Amir Hekmati’s framed picture sits on an end table next to the couch in the home where he grew up. It’s the same couch where Hekmati signed papers to join the U.S. Marines, his mother said.

“He said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to see the whole world,’ ” she recalled. “Then suddenly … 9/11 happened.”

Her son, who served as a rifleman and informal interpreter, was deployed to Iraq for six months in 2004. Hekmati, who speaks Arabic and Farsi in addition to English, had a business translating for people when he got out of the military, his family said.

He had planned to study economics at the University of Michigan in January 2012. Instead of going to Ann Arbor, he has spent about 21 months behind bars, 16 of them in solitary confinement, his family said.

His conditions since have changed and in March, family members received letters from Hekmati for the first time.

He wrote that he loves and misses them, wants to come home to see them, and told his father, Ali Hekmati, who is on leave from his microbiology professor job at Mott Community College in Flint and undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer, to take good care of his health.

Amir Hekmati was incarcerated at the time his father was diagnosed with cancer.His family allowed the news media into the hospital last September and word of his father’s illness made it back to Amir Hekmati through the families of other prisoners, his parents said.

“It’s been very hard for us for us,” Ali Hekmati said. “I miss him dearly.”

Working on his case

His family, who has maintained Hekmati was in Iran legally and did nothing wrong, has worked through Iranian government channels, written letters to Iran’s leaders, met with elected officials in the U.S. and hired an attorney in Iran.

Hekmati received a death sentence in January 2012, but two months later, Iran’s high court ordered a retrial.

“My son was not a spy,” his father said.

The State Department have called the charges “categorically false,” and previously said that Hekmati endured a “closed-door trial with little regard for fairness and transparency.”

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said during a news media briefing last month that officials are “determined to secure his release and remain deeply concerned about his well-being in Iranian custody.” He said they’ve been working continuously to secure Hekmati’s release, but didn’t discuss specifics.

Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan Chapter in Southfield, said he told the Iranian government that he is willing to go to Iran and bring Hekmati home if they want to turn him over to his custody. He said he wants due process for Hekmati.

“All that I request from the Iranian government is that Amir is given a fair, transparent trial with legal council that he chooses for himself, so that he can face the charges presented against him,” he said. “If they can’t provide that, or if they don’t feel the need to do that, then we ask them to show mercy and let Mr. Hekmati go.”

His family, who said he was always there for them willing to help with anything, wants him released as soon as possible.

“We miss him,” Ali Hekmati said. “We need him. He needs us.”

The early years

Ali and Behnaz Hekmati came to the U.S. from Iran in 1979 and brought their children up with knowledge of parts of Iran, including the food, culture and people.

Amir Hekmati, who was born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and moved to Flint in 1991, had never been to Iran before and wanted to go see the country he heard so much about and be with family still there, his mother recalled, even though she worried about him going.

“Instead of holding him with a warm greeting, you put him in a jail,” she said. “It is not fair, he didn’t do anything.”

She has been to see him three times and said her son, who enjoys working out and likes playing soccer and hockey, didn’t have much muscle because of lack of exercise. He lost weight and was being kept in solitary confinement during her visits.

His prison conditions changed after a hunger strike. Hekmati passed out from hunger and was moved into a cell with others, family members said. A judge granted permission for his uncle in Iran to visit once a month, Hekmati is allowed to exercise one hour per day and he also has been permitted to write letters to family members.

“At one point in time … nobody heard from Amir for months and he was not allowed visitors,” Walid said.

It’s hard to know what to make of the changes because it’s hard to read the Iranian government, he said.

During her visit in D.C., Sarah Hekmati gave the Swiss ambassador to Iran books, letters and personal items to take back to Iran in hopes of getting them to her brother.

“I gave him some pictures my kids have drawn for him,” she said.

Meanwhile, his mother spells out her dreams for him: come home, go back to school, get married and have children.

“It will happen,” her husband assured her. “It will happen.

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.

CAIR-MI to Call for Due Process for Muslim Detained in Iran

MEDIA ADVISORY

CAIR-MI to Call for Due Process for Muslim Detained in Iran

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 9/24/12) ­ On Tuesday, September
25, the Michigan chapter of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) will hold a
press conference in Southfield, Mich., on the eve
of Iran’s president speaking to the United
Nations to call for due process and mercy for a
Michigan Muslim being detained by the Iranian government.

WHAT: Press Conference Calling for Due Process
for Mich. Muslim Detained in Iran
WHEN: Tuesday, September 25 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: CAIR-MI Office, 21700 Northwestern Highway, Suite 815, Southfield, MI
CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid,
248-842-1418, E-Mail: dwalid@cair.com

Amir Hekmati, a U.S. military veteran from Flint,
Mich., has been detained by the Iranian
government since August 2011 on the accusation
that he is a CIA agent. He was subsequently given
the death penalty in January, but the conviction was later dismissed.

Hekmati’s family has not been able to communicate
with him for several months and no court date has been given for a retrial.

SEE: Flint Family Holds Out Hope for Release of Son (Free Press)
http://tinyurl.com/9pwtvpe

Hekmati’s mother, sister and brother-in-law will
also be at the press conference.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties
and advocacy organization. Its mission is to
enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage
dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower
American Muslims, and build coalitions that
promote justice and mutual understanding.

– END ­

Convolution in Syria: My Conversation with 2 Syrian Activists

I just concluded a meeting with 2 Syrian activists, who have been in America for a couple of weeks and are returning in Damascus shortly.

Though I cannot attest to the veracity of what they told me, I will repeat some of it below in a few brief points:

1)      They stated that Iranians are in Syria supporting the regime including acting as snipers in Damascus.  They said you can clearly tell they aren’t Syrians because “they are short and have long noses.”

2)      They stated that Hizbullah is in Syria, not simply high level officials who met with the government and make religious visitations but also have their members, “who wear all black and green [bandanas]” in Bloudan.

3)      They stated that there are poor Alawis/Shi’is, who do not support the Al-Assad regime, and that they don’t view the conflict as purely sectarian.

4)      They stated that the “People’s Army” has been joined by Sunni Iraqis, who have crossed the borders with weapons, presumably “American.”

5)      They stated that the “People’s Army” has also been joined by “many Libyans.”

6)      They stated that the Syrian people, anecdotally speaking, do not want American military intervention in Syria, and that they believe the “People’s Army” wants American/NATO military help, so that “they can take control of the country like what happened in Libya.”

7)      They stated that they want the Al-Assad regime to go only through resistance from the Syrian people.

8)      They stated that the only help they want from American Muslims is to give to charitable organizations operating in Syria; since, there are so many people who don’t have blankets and dry food products due to the violence outside of Aleppo and Damascus.

9)      They stated that armed gangs are robbing and killing people in Syria, including car-jackings, based upon the destabilized environment.  These people may or may not be foreigners.

Things on convoluted on the ground is what I’ve taken from what they’ve said in addition to how I’ve understood what is going on.   People are dying every day, there are definitely foreign interests in the country, there is no one unified resistance and there are people there who have relationships to terrorism on the ground.

What we reasonable can all pray for is safety and security to come to Syria, and that Syria does not end up turning into another Iraq.

CAIR-MI Seeks Clemency for Michigan Muslim Detained in Iran

CAIR-MI Seeks Clemency for Michigan Muslim 

Detained in Iran

 

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 1/31/2012) — The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) today sent a letter to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i seeking clemency for a Michigan Muslim who was recently sentenced to death for espionage in Iran.

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a veteran of the U.S. Army, was detained after he traveled to Iran in August 2012. His family maintains that he was visiting relatives during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and that they respect Iran’s sovereignty.

SEE: 20-day Timeline to Appeal Sentence Passes for Amir Hekmati

Ex-Marine Unlikely as Spy in Iran, Experts Say (Wall Street Journal)

In his letter to Ayatollah Khamenei’i, CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid wrote in part:

“It is our hope that the Iranian government will offer the same mercy and compassion to Mr. Hekmati as it recently offered to other Americans charged with similar offenses, including an Iranian-American journalist and three American hikers.

“We respectfully request that you spare the life of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, grant him clemency and facilitate his immediate release, allowing him to return home and reunite with his family.”

SEE Entire Letter:

CAIR has communicated with Iranian officials in the past regarding Americans.

CAIR Welcomes Roxana Saberi’s Release by Iran

CAIR Director Discusses Release of Iran Hikers on CNN

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Become a Fan of CAIR on Facebook

Subscribe to CAIR’s E-Mail List
Subscribe to CAIR’s Twitter Feed
Subscribe to CAIR’s YouTube Channel

– END –

CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, 248-842-1418, E-Mail:dwalid@cair.com, CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri, 248-390-9784, E-Mail: lmasri@cair.com