Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) sent a letter today to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling on the U.S. Department of State to prioritize attaining the release of Amir Hekmati, a former Marine and Flint, Mich., native, who has been held in captivity in Iran for nearly two years. The letter, signed and supported by 112 Members of Congress, urges the State Department to explore all options to secure Hekmati's release so he can be reunited with his family.
"I am calling on the Secretary of State John Kerry to prioritize achieving Amir Hekmati's release so that he can return to the U.S. and be reunited with his family in Michigan," Congressman Kildee said. "I am hopeful that the State Department can reach a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to release Amir from captivity."
Congressman Kildee's letter has strong bipartisan support, with 14 members of the Michigan congressional delegation signing onto the letter. as well as Congressmen Jeff Miller (FL-01) and Mike Michaud (ME-02), the top Republican and Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. Also signing the letter are Congressman Elliot Engel (NY-17), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), the leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), the chairwoman of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
After serving in the Marines, Hekmati traveled to Iran in 2011 to visit his grandmother. During this visit, Iranian authorities arrested him on espionage charges, accusations that the U.S. government and the Hekmati family categorically deny. On Jan. 9, 2012, Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced Hekmati to death; however, on March 5, 2012, Iran's Supreme Court overturned his death sentence and ordered a retrial. Hekmati has been imprisoned for over 650 days.
Moreover, Hekmati's father, Ali Hekmati, a professor at Mott Community College in Flint, was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and has been hospitalized.
"It is time for Amir Hekmati to be reunited with his family so that he can be with his ailing father, mother and sisters during this difficult time," Congressman Kildee said. "All people can agree that families, especially during times of illness, deserve to be together."
Conditions for Hekmati in an Iranian prison have improved recently. The New York Times recently reported that he has been allowed weekly visits from Iranian relatives and to correspond through letters with family in the U.S.
"I am grateful that Amir's treatment has improved significantly in recent weeks and am optimistic that during Ramadan, a time of peace, family and compassion, we can work to reunite Amir with his family," Congressman Kildee said.
A copy of the letter is below.
July 17, 2013
The Honorable John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry:
We are writing to request that the U.S. Department of State continues to make reuniting Amir Hekmati with his family a top priority. Mr. Hekmati, a former Marine, traveled to Iran in August 2011 to visit his grandmother and has been in Iranian custody since. Mr. Hekmati's father was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and in Persian culture, the eldest son is responsible for his family if his father is ailing. Thus, it is imperative that Mr. Hekmati, as the eldest son, be released to care for his father, mother and sisters.
Multiple developments have made us optimistic that we can realize a diplomatic, peaceful and humanitarian resolution to this matter. In March of 2012, Iran's Supreme Court overturned Mr. Hekmati's death sentence. After enduring 16 months of solitary confinement, Mr. Hekmati is now in an area that allows him to interact with other prisoners. Moreover, recently he has been allowed to communicate with his family, including sending letters to his mother in Flint, Michigan, and receiving visits from his uncle and other relatives in Iran.
We appreciate that this is a delicate matter, but all faiths and cultures can agree that families, particularly during times of illness, deserve to be together. Please explore all opportunities to reunite Mr. Hekmati with his ailing father, mother and sisters.