Former US Marine Imprisoned In Iran For 'Spying' Smuggles Letter To John Kerry

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Amir Mirzaei Hekmati

AP

A Dec. 27, 2011 file photo of a video frame grab image made from the Iranian broadcaster IRIB TV, shows U.S. citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, accused by Iran of spying for the CIA, in Tehran's revolutionary court, in Iran.

Amir Hekmati, a US citizen accused of espionage and jailed in Iran, has said his televised confession was forced and asserted that he is in fact being held hostage for use in a prisoner exchange and mistreated.

In a letter smuggled out of jail and obtained by the Guardian, the 29-year-old former US marine, who was arrested in Tehran two years ago for his alleged links to the CIA, said his confession aired on Iranian state television was made under duress and was used to implicate him in trial.

"For over two years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions and prolonged periods of solitary confinement," he wrote earlier this month.

The letter, which has been authenticated by Hekmati's family, is addressed to US secretary of state, John Kerry. Kerry urged Tehran leaders to release him from prison on the second anniversary of his arrest last month, saying Washington was "deeply concerned" about his detention.

Hekmati was picked up by Iranian security officials in August 2011, two weeks after arriving in Tehran from Dubai on a family visit. He holds both Iranian and American citizenship and served as a US marine between 2001 and 2005, at some point translating Persian and Arabic in Iraq.

In his letter, Hekmati accuses the Iranian authorities of employing "unlawful tactics" to keep him in prison with a view to swapping him for Iranian prisoners held in US custody.

"This is part of a propaganda and hostage-taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges," the letter says.

Hekmati's state-appointed Iranian lawyer was told by the authorities that he will be released only if two Iranians held in foreign jails are freed, he writes.

"I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the US government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition," he writes, but does not reveal the names of the Iranian prisoners concerned.

Hekmati goes on to implore Kerry not to buckle under the pressure of Iran's demands.

"I do not wish to set a precedent for others that may be unlawfully (obtained) for political gain in the future," he writes.

Hekmati's letter compares his case to that of three Americans detained in Iran in 2009, accused by Tehran of spying but who insist they were simply hiking innocently along an unmarked Iranian border.

Prior to his arrival in Tehran, Hekmati reportedly checked in with the Iranian interest section in Washington to ensure that his past work with the US military would not create problems for him during his stay.

In December 2011, Hekmati confessed on Iran's state-run TV: "They told me: 'You will become a source of military and intelligence information for the Iranians for three weeks and we will give you money for this and then you will return.'"

In January 2012, an Iranian court sentenced him to death – a verdict later quashed by a higher court. Hekmati is still waiting for retrial.

The new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani's moderate mandate has raised hopes for the former marine's release.

"My hope is that those individuals within the Iranian government who respect rule of law and international ethics will intervene in my case," Hekmati writes.

Hekmati's family, who were made aware of the letter's existence ahead of publication, also released a statement. "The Hekmati family is deeply concerned about our son and brother Amir," it said.

"More than two years in detention, much of which was spent in solitary confinement, is far too long. He is not a US spy. He has never been a spy for any country or entity or person. Even if one accepts the assertions by the Iranian officials as true, which we do not, Amir has served enough time and they have punished him enough."

The Hekmati family has repeatedly pleaded with the Iranian authorities to release him, arguing that he needs to be with his father, who has cancer.

"We hope President Rouhani and his new government recognise this point. We urge his immediate release."

Iran does not recognise dual citizenship and considers Hekmati Iranian. Tehran and Washington have not maintained diplomatic relations since the hostage crisis after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Full transcript

2013-09-01

To: Mr. John Kerry, Secretary of State, US State Department

From: Amir Hekmati

SSN: --- -- 1921

Dear Mr. Kerry

I first of all would like to thank you and your department for your sincere efforts in supporting me and securing my release. My family and I are extremely grateful and appreciate the value the State Department places on U.S. citizens. For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition. I do not wish to set a precedent for others that may be unlawfully (obtained) for political gain in the future. While my family and I have suffered greatly I will accept nothing but my unconditional release. The very same suffering that the 3 American hikers have recently suffered and many others by these unlawful tactics. My hope is that those individuals within the Iranian government who respect rule of law and international ethics will intervene in my case. As someone of Iranian heritage, I hope that the Iranian people will also support me and call on their government to respect my legal rights.

Respectfully,
Amir Hekmati

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk



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