By Jada F. Smith, NY Times, May 19, 2014
WASHINGTON — Family and supporters of Amir Hekmati, a former United States Marine who is being held in an Iranian prison for “practical collaboration with the United States government,” gathered for a vigil in front of the White House on Monday to mark the 1,000th day of his detainment.
The event was led by Terry Mahoney, a former Marine sergeant who has never met Mr. Hekmati but has not stopped working on his behalf since learning about his imprisonment in 2011. Mr. Mahoney sat in what he called a “figurative cell” in Lafayette Park, just a few steps from the White House, for 1,000 minutes: one minute for every day Mr. Hekmati has been in prison.
“I started following his story, then I started acting on it,” Mr. Mahoney said. “I was in Desert Storm and we knew that the entire country supported us. It was amazing. And I think it really hurt my heart that there wasn’t a similar outpouring of support for him when I found out about it.”
Mr. Mahoney has been blogging about Mr. Hekmati’s case for the past few years and trying to rally support, and the United States government has been behind him as well. The family has received support from Representative Dan Kildee, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator Carl Levin — all from Michigan, the home state of Mr. Hekmati, 30, an American of Iranian descent. Mr. Levin wrote an open letter that was read at the vigil, imploring President Hassan Rouhani to release Mr. Hekmati and encouraging supporters to be patient as they wait.
“As you gather in Lafayette Park to remind the world of Amir’s imprisonment, know that your cause is just, because his imprisonment is unjust,” he said. “Your plea for justice has been heard, in the White House, in the State Department, in the halls of Congress. Hopefully it will soon be heard in Tehran as well.”
President Obama has personally brought up Mr. Hekmati’s case with Mr. Rouhani, including during talks in Vienna over the disputed Iranian nuclear program.
Mr. Hekmati has been jailed since August 2011, when he was in Iran visiting his maternal grandmother and other relatives for the first time. He was originally sentenced to death for suspected espionage, but that sentence was overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court. A secret retrial was held in December 2013, and Mr. Hekmati was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His lawyer is seeking a release after three3 years of the 10-year term has been served, which would make his earliest release date in August.
But the family has had a difficult time getting information from Iranian officials, and few of his supporters are expecting to be given an exact date. The family — which is also dealing with the cancer diagnosis of the patriarch, Ali Hekmati — is leaning on the support they have received from people like Terry Mahoney. Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister, said that her mother received Mother’s Day cards from mothers around the globe.
“It’s not something we could do alone,” Ms. Hekmati said. “It’s just so humbling to know that there are people out there that have that much compassion for complete strangers. It gives us hope. It shows us that good outweighs the bad in the world.”
Clip from Al Jazeera America News, May 19, 2014
Daniel @ freeallthree . com