Iranian-American Amir Hekmati will spend his third consecutive birthday in an Iranian jail.
The former US marine turned 32 on July 28. “Amir continues to be unjustly held as a political prisoner on the other side of the world, away from his family in Michigan,” said Congressman Dan Kildee said in a statement. “Too many birthdays and cherished moments with family have been missed as Amir continues to be caught up in a geopolitical struggle among nations.”
Hekmati was jailed in 2011 while visiting his grandmother. and charged with espionage. He is the longest officially-held American prisoner in Iran. Iranian authorities have not released any specifics about the charges against him. Since his incarceration, he has been repeatedly interrogated, tortured and forced to spend months in solitary confinement.
Hekmati’s family, Congressman Kildee and other campaigners have repeatedly called for Hekmati to be released. Hekmati has himself written several letters to senior Iranian officials including President Rouhani, the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, and Mahmoud Alavi, the Minister of Intelligence.
His sister Sarah has said her brother has been held “by the regime in Tehran as leverage” as part of Iran’s negotiations with the United States and other countries.
Following the announcement of the nuclear deal earlier this month, activists hoped that the Iranian government would take steps to free Hekmati and Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who also holds dual nationality.
Speaking to the press following the nuclear deal, Congressman Kildee pointed out the irony of Hekmati and Rezaian facing charges of “cooperating with a hostile nation” at the same time that “President Rouhani, with the full support of the Supreme Leader, is negotiating with that very government.”
In today’s statement, Kildee said, “Congress will be watching Iran’s behavior very closely over the coming weeks, including if they take action to release Amir and the other innocent Americans it holds. Doing so would be a tangible demonstration to Congress and the world that Iran is serious about rejoining the global community.”
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