Amir Hekmati, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and raised in Michigan, was arrested in 2011 and charged with spying. He was convicted and sentenced to death, but in 2012, Iran’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial.  The Revolutionary Court overturned the espionage charges and instead charged him with “cooperating with hostile governments” against Iran and sentenced him to 10 years.  The former U.S. Marine, is now appealing his new sentence, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, Hekmati’s lawyer, told the Associated Press on Memorial Day, which marks Hekmati’s 1,000th day in Iranian custody.

“During his captivity, Amir’s father has fallen terribly ill with brain cancer, and there is no greater wish from his father than to see his son again,” U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat whose district includes the Hekmati family, said in a statement, “For 1,000 days, his family has also suffered as Amir continues to be held on unjust charges. They want nothing more than their family to be whole and in one place again. “Simply put, it is time for Amir Hekmati to come home.”

Tabatabaei is optimistic given that Hekmati’s conviction was already reduced once. They are arguing that the U.S. is not considered a hostile government by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council headed by President Hassan Rouhani. Officially, Iran considers only Israel a hostile government.

“We have argued that the American government is not a hostile government, because the definition of hostile government rests within the hands of the Supreme National Security Council according to the law, and the council has never made such an interpretation,” of the U.S government. He said if the court accepts the reasoning “there will remain no conviction that would justify such a heavy punishment.”

Iranian prosecutors have alleged that Hekmati received special training at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to spy on Iran. Hekmati’s family says he only went to visit his grandmothers. The U.S. government has also denied that Hekmati, 31, is a spy.  In November, the Obama administration called on Iran to release Hekmati and two other Americans being held in Iran.

Tabatabaei has also sought Hekmati’s conditional release from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. This would allow Hekmati to visit his father Ali Hekmati, a professor at Mott Community College in Michigan who has terminal brain cancer. Tabatabaei also said that Hekmati is doing fine and “spends most of his time reading.”


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