Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati says TV confession in Iran was forced and he is being held as a hostage.
In the glut of ‘Iran news’ this past fall, you may have missed this part of Amir Hekmati’s story.
Photo (l) Amir Hekmati interviewed on Iranian state TV in 2011: he says his confession was made under duress and used to implicate him during his trial. Photograph: Irib/EPA (Photo (r) from Free Amir Hekmati FB page)
By Saeed Kamali Dehghan, theguardian.com
Exclusive-First Published: September 11, 2013 [excerpted, link to full story below]
Amir Hekmati, a U..S citizen accused of espionage and jailed in Iran, has said his televised confession was forced and asserted that he is in fact being held hostage for use in a prisoner exchange and mistreated.
In a letter smuggled out of jail and obtained by the Guardian, the 29-year-old [at the time] former U.S. Marine, who was arrested in Tehran two years ago for his alleged links to the CIA, said his confession aired on Iranian state television was made under duress and was used to implicate him in trial.
“For over two years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions and prolonged periods of solitary confinement,” he wrote earlier this month.
The letter, which has been authenticated by Hekmati’s family, is addressed to US secretary of state, John Kerry. Kerry urged Tehran leaders to release him from prison on the second anniversary of his arrest last month, saying Washington was “deeply concerned” about his detention.
Hekmati was picked up by Iranian security officials in August 2011, two weeks after arriving in Tehran from Dubai on a family visit. He holds both Iranian and American citizenship and served as a U.S. Marine between 2001 and 2005, at some point translating Persian and Arabic in Iraq.
In January 2012, an Iranian court sentenced him to death – a verdict later quashed by a higher court. Hekmati is still waiting for retrial.
The new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s moderate mandate has raised hopes for the former marine’s release. “My hope is that those individuals within the Iranian government who respect rule of law and international ethics will intervene in my case,” Hekmati writes.
Hekmati’s family, who were made aware of the letter’s existence ahead of publication, also released a statement.
“The Hekmati family is deeply concerned about our son and brother Amir,” it said. “More than two years in detention, much of which was spent in solitary confinement, is far too long. He is not an U.S. spy. He has never been a spy for any country or entity or person. Even if one accepts the assertions by the Iranian officials as true, which we do not, Amir has served enough time and they have punished him enough.”
To: Mr. John Kerry, Secretary of State, US State Department
From: Amir Hekmati
SSN: — — —-
Dear Mr. Kerry
I first of all would like to thank you and your department for your sincere efforts in supporting me and securing my release. My family and I are extremely grateful and appreciate the value the State Department places on U.S. citizens. For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition. I do not wish to set a precedent for others that may be unlawfully (obtained) for political gain in the future. While my family and I have suffered greatly I will accept nothing but my unconditional release. The very same suffering that the 3 American hikers have recently suffered and many others by these unlawful tactics. My hope is that those individuals within the Iranian government who respect rule of law and international ethics will intervene in my case. As someone of Iranian heritage, I hope that the Iranian people will also support me and call on their government to respect my legal rights.
(Other images above from Free Amir Hekmati FB page; prison image is a quilt made by a supporter, given to Hekmati family.)