New York Times: The mother of Amir Hekmati, an American of Iranian descent imprisoned in Tehran for nearly three years, has written to President Obama, asking him to “please remember my Amir” in the negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program. The letter from the mother, Behnaz Hekmati, appeared timed to convey the family’s wish that the United States use its leverage in the nuclear talks to win his release.
The New York Times
By Rick Gladstone
The mother of Amir Hekmati, an American of Iranian descent imprisoned in Tehran for nearly three years, has written to President Obama, asking him to “please remember my Amir” in the negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
The letter from the mother, Behnaz Hekmati, appeared timed to convey the family’s wish that the United States use its leverage in the nuclear talks to win his release. Relatives shared a copy of the letter, dated and delivered on Friday, shortly before the news that Iran and a group of six world powers including the United States had agreed to a four-month extension of the nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
A temporary agreement had been set to expire on Sunday. Diplomats involved in the negotiations had suggested that an extension was a possibility.
The incarceration of Mr. Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Mich., who turns 31 this month, has been festering as an irritant in the estranged relationship between Iran and the United States. His family had harbored hopes a year ago that he would be freed after the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who wants improved relations, but that optimism proved premature.
Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior American officials have said they constantly raise the issue of Mr. Hekmati with Iran.
“As you, Secretary Kerry and all the other hard-working Americans endeavor in what is no doubt painstaking and detailed work, please remember my Amir,” Mr. Hekmati’s mother wrote to Mr. Obama. “He served his country during its times of peril and now needs his country to do the same for him. I know you have many challenges at hand, but I also know you read your letters every evening.”
There was no immediate comment from the White House on whether Mr. Obama had seen the letter. Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Mr. Hekmati was arrested in August 2011 while visiting relatives in Tehran for the first time. He was accused of espionage, tried and sentenced to death. The conviction and sentence were overturned by Iran’s highest court in March 2012, but Mr. Hekmati remained in prison, with no explanation of what charges, if any, he still faced.
Without his knowledge, he was secretly tried on a lesser charge of collaborating with the United States government and given a 10-year sentence in December, which he learned about only early this year after his family hired an influential Iranian lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, to represent him.
Mr. Hekmati and his family have repeatedly asserted his innocence. In a letter sent in April to Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Mr. Hekmati called his incarceration “the result of the political misunderstandings between the U.S. and Iran.”