1,000th day in prison nearing, Marine asks retrial
- Article by: DAVID N. GOODMAN
- Associated Press
- May 25, 2014 - 2:25 PM
DETROIT — A former U.S. Marine who has spent almost 1,000 days in an Iranian prison after being accused of working for the CIA will appeal for a new trial after already seeing his sentence reduced once, an Iranian news agency reported Sunday.
Amir Hekmati, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and raised in Michigan, was arrested in August 2011 on his first-ever visit to his parents' homeland, then tried, convicted and sentenced to death for spying.
However, Iran's Supreme Court annulled the death sentence after Hekmati appealed, ordering a retrial in 2012. The country's Revolutionary Court then overturned his conviction for espionage, instead charging him with "cooperating with hostile governments" and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
The anniversary of his detention falls on Monday, which is Memorial Day, and the U.S. congressman representing the Hekmati family renewed his call for the 31-year-old's release Sunday.
Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, Hekmati's lawyer, said he would appeal the 10-year prison sentence as well, according to a report by Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency. ISNA quoted the lawyer saying the rehearing request comes over a possible mistake by the judge in the case and the "inconsistency" between Hekmati's alleged crime and its punishment. Iranian law allows for hearings after an appeals court decision for those reasons.
Tabatabaei said Hekmati has handed his request for rehearing to prison authorities.
Iranian prosecutors said Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran as a spy.
The Obama administration in November asked Iran to free Hekmati and two other Americans believed to be held there, as relations recently have thawed between Washington and moderate President Hassan Rouhani. The U.S. government repeatedly has denied Hekmati is a spy.
Hekmati's family, which lives in the Flint, Michigan, area, says he is innocent and only went to Iran to visit his grandmothers. Family spokesman Greg Romano said Sunday that the family was aware of the report of the trial request and was considering a response.
Previously, Tabatabaei said he sought Hekmati's conditional freedom from Evin prison, which is north of Tehran.
Conditional freedom could allow Hekmati to leave the country, depending on what a court decides. That could allow Hekmati to visit his father Ali Hekmati, a professor at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, who family members say has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and recently suffered a stroke.
Tabatabaei said a doctor treating Hekmati's father has sent him a letter asking the ex-Marine be given leave on bail.
"During his captivity, Amir's father has fallen terribly ill with brain cancer, and there is no greater wish from his father than to see his son again," U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat whose district includes the Hekmati family, said in a statement. "For 1,000 days, his family has also suffered as Amir continues to be held on unjust charges. They want nothing more than their family to be whole and in one place again.
"Simply put, it is time for Amir Hekmati to come home."
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