Kildee, Montel Williams push for Flint Marine release

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The family of a Flint U.S. Marine who has been held captive in Iran for nearly four years will be on Capitol Hill urging support for a new push from Congress to call for his release.

The family of Amir Hekmati will appear with Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, along with TV personality Montel Williams "to raise awareness and lobby for a new bipartisan resolution seeking the release of Amir and other American prisoners They will also be meeting with House and Senate members, as well as the White House over the next two days," Kildee's office said.

Other members of Congress back the congressional resolution expressing the sense of Congress that Iran should immediately release Hekmati, along with the other Americans it holds as political prisoners. The bipartisan resolution was also cosponsored by other members of Congress who also represent the families of Americans being held or missing in Iran, including Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Ca., Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

The congressional resolution reads, in part, “Iran should release all detained Americans immediately and provide any information it possesses regarding any Americans that have disappeared within its borders.”

Iran has imprisoned Hekmati, 31, for three and a half years, accusing him of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency. In March, President Barack Obama, in a message marking the Persian New Year, called for the release of imprisoned Americans.

"Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran," Obama said.

Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. Iranian authorities arrested him during a 2011 trip to visit his grandmothers, sentencing Hekmati to death for spying. Iran's Supreme Court annulled the sentence but then convicted him of "cooperating with hostile governments" and sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied that Hekmati is a spy, and he denies any wrongdoing.

Kildee said earlier this month to say that if Iran intends to rejoin the global community of nations, it cannot hold Americans as political prisoners. In January, Congressman Kildee also left his seat open at the State of the Union to draw attention to Amir’s continued captivity.

“Iran cannot be taken seriously as a member of the global community if they continue to hold innocent Americans like Amir Hekmati as political prisoners,” Kildee said. “Amir is an American citizen, born and raised in the U.S., who served his country honorably in the U.S. Marines. He is innocent yet has been unjustly held as a political prisoner by Iran for 1,340 days. This congressional resolution allows Congress to speak with one voice and say that Iran must release the innocent Americans it holds.”

Hekmati's family said in March that he has renounced his dual Iranian citizenship and vowed not to return to Iran if freed.

“For over three and a half years, our family has fought for Amir's voice to be heard, his basic human rights observed, and for his release from this arbitrary imprisonment. We thank Congressman Kildee for not only responding to our continuous pleas for help, but actively joining in the battle to bring our son and brother home,” the Hekmati family said in a statement.

Montel Williams added in a statement: "I am so grateful to Congressman Dan Kildee for his bipartisan leadership on behalf of Amir Hekmati. Amir represents the very best this country has to offer, and shame on all of us if we allow him to be left behind.”