Congressman Dan Kildee Urges U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Act Swiftly on the Release of Former Marine and Flint Native Held Captive in Iran

Press Release

By: Jim Moran, Jr., Paul Tonko, Scott Rigell, John Carney, Jr., Tulsi Gabbard, Suzan DelBene, Mike Honda, Frank Wolf, Hank Johnson, Jr., Paul Broun, Paul Cook, David McKinley, Al Green, Juan Vargas, Ted Deutch, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Randy Weber, Sr., Ed Perlmutter, Rob Andrews, Luis Gutiérrez, Tim Walberg, Mark Takano, Eric Swalwell, Madeleine Bordallo, John Larson, Beto O'Rourke, Walter Jones, Jr., Bill Johnson, Albio Sires, Steven Palazzo, Jim Himes, Tony Cárdenas, Ami Bera, Randy Forbes, Carolyn Maloney, Diana DeGette, Joyce Beatty, Cheri Bustos, John Conyers, Jr., Jan Schakowsky, Lois Frankel, Peter Roskam, Dan Kildee, Xavier Becerra, Jeff Miller, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Earl Blumenauer, Joe Kennedy III, Jackie Walorski, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee, Denny Heck, Matt Cartwright, Corrine Brown, Joe Garcia, Rick Nolan, Dave Joyce, Carol Shea-Porter, Annie Kuster, Gerry Connolly, Grace Meng, Sandy Levin, Colleen Hanabusa, Justin Amash, Brad Schneider, Chris Van Hollen, Jr., Bob Latta, Dan Maffei, John Delaney, Peter DeFazio, Bill Huizenga, Eliot Engel, Joaquin Castro, Ted Yoho, Alan Grayson, Brad Wenstrup, Mike Michaud, Fred Upton, Filemon Vela, Jr., Mike Rogers, Alan Lowenthal, Derek Kilmer, Todd Young, Brad Sherman, Terri Sewell, Michael Coffman, Jim McDermott, Julia Brownley, Patrick Murphy, Trey Radel, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Dave Camp, Gary Peters, John Dingell, Joe Crowley, Candice Miller, Adam Smith, Alan Nunnelee, David Cicilline, Jackie Speier, Dan Benishek, Jared Huffman, Mark Pocan, Steve Daines, Bill Enyart, Michael Grimm, Kerry Bentivolio, Rush Holt, Jr., Scott Peters, Karen Bass, Jim McGovern
Date: July 18, 2013
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs

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.