by Rick Gladstone, NY Times, December 16, 2014
Relatives of a former Marine imprisoned in Iran for more than three years said Tuesday that he had begun a hunger strike, and they released an open letter he had written to President Obama urging him “not to forget me” as the United States intensifies negotiations with the Iranians on their disputed nuclear program.
Those negotiations, which have already been extended twice and are now facing a July deadline, resumed on Tuesday in Geneva between Iran and the group of six big powers, including the United States, that have been seeking guarantees of Iran’s peaceful intentions for its nuclear program.
The letter by the former Marine, Amir Hekmati, 31, of Flint, Mich., was his first to Mr. Obama, and reflected despondency over the paralysis of his case.
“I have dictated this letter to my family and asked them to bring my plight to your attention through an open letter,” it reads. “It is my hope that after reading this letter you, or anyone who may see this, will help end the nightmare I have been living.”
Letter from Amir Hekmati to President Obama
Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who has been incarcerated in Iran for more than three years, sent this letter to President Obama as the United States intensifies negotiations with Tehran on its disputed nuclear program.
Iran’s incarceration of Americans of Iranian descent — there are at least three — has been an underlying aggravation in the strained relationship between the two countries. Even though they have American passports, Iran considers them Iranian citizens subject to Iranian law and not entitled to consular visits and other rights afforded foreigners. The other Americans are: Jason Rezaian, 38, from California, The Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent, held since July on unspecified charges; and Saeed Abedini, 34, of Idaho, a pastor sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison on charges of disturbing national security by creating Christian churches in private homes.
As with the others, the Obama administration has repeatedly called on the Iranians to release Mr. Hekmati, who was imprisoned in August 2011 while visiting relatives in Iran for the first time. He was accused of espionage and sentenced to death. The verdict was overturned, but Mr. Hekmati remained in prison, and last year he was convicted and sentenced to the lesser, vaguely defined offense of helping a hostile power, which carries a 10-year sentence.
Iran’s judicial authorities have not explained the precise nature of the case against Mr. Hekmati, who has said he is an innocent victim of the political animosities between Iran and the United States, and is desperate to return home to Flint, where his father, Ali, a microbiology professor, has been stricken with a brain tumor.
“With no answer in sight, I am deeply concerned that my future has become tied to the nuclear negotiations with Iran, with which I have no connection, influence or leverage,” Mr. Hekmati says in the letter. “I can draw no other conclusion, as each opportunity for a legal or humanitarian remedy is ignored, delayed or denied.”
“I ask that you not forget me, Mr. President. I understand that there will be additional dialogue this week on the nuclear subject. I ask that you make it clear that my case is unrelated and should be resolved independent of your talks.”
Mr. Rezaian’s case has been particularly frustrating because the Iranian judiciary has not explained why he has been held, other than to hint of acts unrelated to journalism. Mr. Rezaian’s mother, Mary, who lives in Turkey, intended to travel to Iran on Wednesday in an attempt to visit her son, who has been held in solitary confinement.
[Photos and any emphases above added by FreeAllThree.com]