State of the Union Address- What do you want to hear?

The family of Amir Hekmati was asked by Al Jazeera TV to express what they would like to ask or say to the President of the United States if they had the chance. You can guess what it might be, but the photo of the two children says it all!

amir dear potus free our uncle

We would love for President Obama to look into their faces and say, “I’m going to do EVERYTHING I possibly can to bring him home…and soon.”  Will that happen? We’ll see. But how could one look into those eyes and say, “Sorry, I can’t do anything.”

The following from AJAM describes how you can ask POTUS your question via their live news programs ahead of and during the speech.

However, you can also email or Tweet the White House directly by going to whitehouse.gov.

Better yet, Tweet his top three advisers who are putting the finishing touches on his speech right up until Tuesday evening. Tweet Valerie Jarrett @vj44 , David Axelrod @davidaxelrod , or John Podesta @johnpodesta .

Be respectful, but emphasize that you want the President to speak out for Iran to immediately release Amir, Pastor Saeed and Bob Levinson. They are all held in Iran today against their wills. Tell the President to return all three men to their families quickly … and definitely before July 4th so they can celebrate Freedom at home!

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by The America Tonight Digital Team, AJAM TV (Al Jazeera America) 1 23 2014

“You can share your message for the President with @AmericaTonight using the #DearPOTUS hashtag on Twitter.America Tonight

Poll after poll shows that Americans care deeply about a lot of issues, from poverty, health care and education, to foreign policy, national security and [human]rights.

Ahead of the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 28, we want to go beyond polls for a glimpse at what Americans really want to top the to-do list in Washington, and why. If you could ask President Barack Obama to take on one thing – one policy, one issue, one bill, one idea, one principle – what would it be?

Starting with the phrase: “Dear Mr. President, I want…,” write your wish on a piece of paper or poster board, take a photo of yourself holding it, and either email it to us at DearPOTUS@aljazeera.net or tweet it to @AmericaTonight with the hashtag #DearPOTUS. Some of the most interesting images will be compiled in a blog post and used in our broadcast coverage of the State of the Union address. It can be a paragraph, it can be a word, it can be a poem. It just has to be legible.

To it kick off, we asked some of the people and families we have profiled in recent ‘America Tonight’ stories to contribute. Here’s one:

 The Hekmati Family

amior smallAhead of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the U.S. last September, we told the story of Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who went to Iran in August 2011 and visited his grandmothers. Two weeks into his visit, he was picked up by the Iranian authorities. A few months later, he was charged with spying for the CIA and sentenced to death by an Iranian court. Though the verdict was overturned due to lack of evidence and a new trial ordered, he remains in the country’s notorious Evin prison, with no publicly disclosed charges against him, no trial date set and little contact with the outside world.

Amir grew up in a close-knit Iranian-American family, and his detention has been devastating for them. Amir’s father, Ali, developed brain cancer more than a year ago. “Every day he’s in my mind. Every day, every night,” Ali said, explaining that the thought of Amir in prison hurt more than chemotherapy. Amir’s older sister Sarah struggles to explain to her two children, pictured below, where their uncle is. “We just have to keep holding on to hope that we can tell [them] your uncle is going come home and we’re going to keep fighting for him to come home,” she said.

And in the backdrop of a temporary nuclear accord between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers, four top former American defense and security officials asked President Obama yesterday to take “immediate action” to expedite Amir’s release. Amir Hekmati’s nephew and niece also have a message for the commander-in-chief.

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AJAM also carried this report from the NY Times 1 22 2014:

American officials have said that the imprisonment of United States citizens in Iran is among the issues that have been raised in the negotiations over the nuclear dispute, which are expected to resume in the coming weeks.

Iran has given no indication that it is prepared to release Mr. Hekmati, although his Iranian relatives have been allowed to visit him in prison. There has been a modest increase in optimism about the Hekmati case since the election last year of President Hassan Rouhani, considered a relative moderate whose overtures helped create the basis for the nuclear diplomacy.

Mr. Rouhani has said he wants to end Iran’s isolation and ease the severe restraints on personal freedoms that shaped the tenure of his conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Nonetheless, human rights activists and other critics of Iran say Mr. Rouhani’s government has done little, so far, to change Iran’s reputation for judicial abuses and heavy punishment of criminals and dissidents.

“We are dismayed at the continued application of the death penalty with alarming frequency by the authorities, despite repeated calls for Iran to establish a moratorium on executions,” said Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and Christof Heyns, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

In Geneva on Wednesday, United Nations human rights experts reported a surge in Iranian executions this year, with 40 people hanged in the first two weeks of January, 33 of them in the past week.

Iran is second only to China in the application of capital punishment, and most Iranian executions are of drug offenders.

Although there has been much discussion on possible changes to Iran’s penal code since Mr. Rouhani took office, Mr. Shaheed said, “it looks as if his pledges of reform have fallen on deaf ears in Iran.”

[Included in the same article is a link to a letter calling for Amir’s release from William Cohen and three other former U.S. Military officials to the President on January 20, 2014]

[key excerpt follows:]

“As Iran and the United States attempt a formal accord in the next six months, now is the perfect time for the release of Mr. Hekmati,” the letter reads. “Freeing him is indeed in both nations’ best interests. From a macro perspective, it helps the burgeoning bilateral relationship and signals a greater interest from Iran in rejoining the global community. On a micro level, his release would reunite Amir with his dying father, who desperately wants to embrace his son once more.”

“Mr. President, the words ‘gone but not forgotten’ are used to honor those who gave their lives for their country. We must likewise remember this brave American and defend him for the honor and courage he has shown in the face of this adversity.”

View the entire letter written to POTUS by William Cohen, former Secretary of Defense, and three former high-ranking military generals: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/international/iran_obama_letter01232014.pdf

Daniel

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