VP meets with Michigan family of imprisoned Marine

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday met with the family of a U.S. Marine from Flint who has been held captive in Iran for nearly four years.

Biden met with the family of Amir Hekmati after the vice president spoke at an annual NAACP dinner in Detroit on Sunday.

“VP reiterated our call for Iran to immediately release Amir so he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible,” Biden’s office wrote in a Twitter posting, saying Hekmati has been imprisoned “on false espionage charges for over three years. His family has borne the pain of his absence for too long.”

Last week, family members appeared 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 Hekmati and other U.S. prisoners.

Williams praised Biden for meeting with the family “and providing them with substantive answers.”

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

Iran has imprisoned Hekmati, 31, for 31/2 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.

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

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

Kildee has said if Iran intends to rejoin the global community of nations, it cannot hold Americans as political prisoners.

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