Former US Marine Sentenced to Die in Iran Needs Our Help

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former US Marine interpreter and US citizen born in Flagstaff, Arizona, has been sentenced to die in Iran. Hekmati, 28, had traveled to Iran to visit his grandmothers and was arrested last August on charges of espionage. Iran claims the young man was working for the CIA, and just yesterday, he was sentenced to death.

Though the CIA has declined to comment, the State Department has denied that Hekmati was a spy and many say that Iran uses many methods to elicit false confessions from prisoners. Iran would consider Hekmati an Iranian citizen since his father was and he truly may die if the US doesn't intervene in some way. As the US continues to fight with Iran over the country's nuclear program, many are worried that Hekmati will only add fuel to the fire.

Naturally, his parents, mother Behnaz and father Ali, who now live in Michigan, are worried sick. They released a statement through their website, saying:

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[We are] shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death. We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair. His very life is being exploited for political gain.

Iranian media claims that Hekmati admitted to investigators that he had been sent to Iran by the CIA. He had been trained for 10 years and was assigned to infiltrate the Intelligence Ministry, according to Iranian reports. They called it an “intricate American plot to carry out espionage activities in the Islamic republic.”

Though his friends, family, and the State Department deny he is a spy, his confession probably happened under coercion and pressure. He is being used as a political tool to get the US to back down on the increasing sanctions against Iran and it is just dirty and wrong.

It's hard to even imagine what Hekmati's parents must be feeling now, but it clearly can't be comforting to have your son's life hang in the balance over politics. People being used as political pawns is nothing new, but obviously everything changes when it's your child.

They must feel so powerless, and if he was doing a secret operation, then his parents certainly don't believe he was. Iran is using him and his former military background to help pressure the US, and all we can do is wait and see how it all plays out. As Americans, we can't possibly stand by and let him die. We have to watch this case. In many ways, he is all of our communal child. He is a citizen of the US, a person who served our country and one who has helped us in numerous ways through his translating service.

More people need to pay attention to the case and pressure those in power to get Hekmati released. This could become a major international incident. And it probably should. It's an outrage.

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Image via Free Amir

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