Amir Hekmati, an Iranian American and former US Marine, is in his fourth year of incarceration at Evin Prison in Iran. Hekmati began a hunger strike last week to protest at his imprisonment and, in an IranWire exclusive, he has written a letter to Sadegh Ardeshir Amoli Larijani, head of Iran’s judiciary, and Mahmoud Alavi, the Minister of Intelligence, appealing for their assistance.
On December 23, a family spokeperson provided the following update:
"The Hekmati family has learned that Amir Hekmati has agreed to suspend his hunger strike, reluctantly and temporarily. Apparently, Evin Prison officials have implored Amir to end his hunger strike. Evin Prison officials, in return, said they would take certain steps to have his case revisited by appropriate Iranian government authorities.
Amir and the Hekmati family deeply appreciate all of those who have joined Amir in solidarity. All of those who are helping to free Amir. The family, particularly Amir’s ailing father, is deeply moved by the thousands that have joined the campaign.
Amir has indicated that he will resume his hunger strike if real action is not taken on his case with real results.
Three years is too long. Amir Hekmati is innocent."
The letter below follows another letter, addressed to President Barack Obama.
Hekmati went to Iran in 2011 to visit his grandmother and other relatives – but he was soon arrested on charges of espionage. Hekmati and his family insist that the charges are baseless.
He was convicted and sentenced to death a year after his arrest. The ruling was later overturned, and Hekmati is now serving a 10-year sentence for “cooperating with hostile governments,” while a panel of judges reviews his case before a retrial.
But progress has been slow. Hekmati has been told by Evin officials that his case is tied to the ongoing nuclear negotiations between the West and Iran. The recent extension of talks, from this past November to summer 2015, have left Hekmati feeling hopeless and powerless.
Hekmati hopes that his letters to senior Iranian and US officials will focus new attention on his case. As stated above, he intends to resume his hunger strike if real action on his case is not taken.
Hekamati’s sister Sarah spoke to IranWire about her brother’s hunger strike, his concerns that nuclear talks are holding up his release, and the toll his imprisonment has taken on his family.
His Excellency Sadegh Ardeshir Amoli Larijani, Head of Judiciary, Islamic Republic of Iran
His Excellency Mahmoud Alavi, Minister of Intelligence, Islamic Republic of Iran
I am an Iranian American. I love the country where my parents come from, Iran, as much as much I love the United States, the country where I grew up. That is why I visited my relatives in Iran in 2011, when I was unjustly arrested and charged with espionage. I was convicted a year later and sentenced to death—a charge later overturned by the Supreme Court when it called for a retrial. But I remain in prison on these baseless allegations while waiting for the chance to prove my innocence.
I have now decided to go on hunger strike to protest at this injustice. I have been told that, if I continue with this protest, I will be placed in solitary confinement. But I am deeply concerned with the lack of progress in my case and feel that I must take some action.
I believe that my case is being interfered with by unknown elements inside Iran. The prison authorities have repeatedly told me that the outcome, which remains unresolved after more than three years, is delayed because of the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the United States regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
I have no connection to these negotiations—nor do I have any influence or leverage over any final deal between Iran and the United States. Binding the resolution of my case to progress in the nuclear negotiations is profoundly unjust. I want to bring this to your kind attention with the hope that you will help me secure an unbiased resolution. I also want to alert you to the broader circumstances of my incarceration.
Three months ago, after a raid by prison officers, I was moved from Ward 350 of Evin Prison to a new ward with poor hygienic conditions. We have no heating; there is no gas and it is very cold inside the prison. I am always sick because of the cold and I have suffered constant lung infections over the past several months. The prison’s meager food budget only allows us rice and lentils—a diet which does not let the body heal under these conditions. We also experience frequent electricity blackouts.
My fellow prisoners have ticks and lice. Many of them are convicted drug dealers and other hardened criminals. There is no reason to place me with such convicts.
I am sure that you must be unaware of this treatment as it violates Iranian law. I bring this situation to your attention—a situation that goes against Iranian laws and values—so that you can help bring it to an end.
My family circumstances make all this even more unbearable. My father has suffered two strokes and endured brain cancer since I was arrested and imprisoned. I ask you now for your understanding and compassion: My father needs me at this most difficult time. He is holding on to life with the hope that he will again be allowed to see his son.
Waiting more than three years for a resolution is far too long. Please, Your Excellencies, consider my case with justice and intervene on my behalf.
Read IranWire’s interview with Amir Hekmati’s sister Sarah.