By RICK GLADSTONE NY Times, Feb. 18, 2014
Amir Hekmati, a former Marine incarcerated in Iran on spying charges, has retained a prominent Iranian lawyer to represent him in a new effort to gain his release after nearly two and a half years in Tehran’s Evin Prison, Mr. Hekmati’s family reported on Tuesday.
The lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, is well known in Iran as one of the legal representatives for the family of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and ideological pragmatist who remains an influential force in Iranian politics.
Mr. Tabatabaei was also the lawyer for Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian-Iranian blogger who was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy. That sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by Iran’s Supreme Court after Mr. Malekpour showed remorse and repented, the lawyer was quoted as saying last August by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.
Mr. Hekmati’s [U.S.] Congressional Representative, Dan Kildee of Michigan, said in an interview that many fellow lawmakers in both parties, already deeply skeptical of Iran’s intentions in the nuclear talks, have suggested that the release of Mr. Hekmati would be regarded as a welcomed sign of sincerity from the Iranian side. “One way for Iran to enhance its credibility would be to take unilateral action about Amir,” Mr. Kildee, a Democrat, said. “I hear about it a lot.”
Mr. Hekmati is one of two, and possibly three, Americans in Iranian custody. The others are Saeed Abedini, a pastor sentenced in January 2013 to an eight-year prison term, accused of unlawfully creating a network of Christian churches in private Iranian homes, and Robert A. Levinson, an intelligence operative and retired F.B.I. agent who has been missing for seven years.