OTR Interviews

Family of Marine jailed in Iran: We'd like the State Dept. to do more

Sister and brother-in-law of Amir Hekmati plead for help in his ordeal. #FreeAmirNow


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 6, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MONTEL WILLIAMS, TALK SHOW HOST: He right now, is being held as a prisoner of war because of what he is did in Iraq. Let's make sure Iran holds up to the Geneva Convention. It's not going to prove anything. What it's going to do is give our country the dignity to know that we don't leave a soldier behind, period.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, "ON THE RECORD" HOST: 1,316 days that's how long Amir Hekmati, an American marine has been held in a brutal Iranian prison, the one known for torture. Now Amir Hekmati's sister, Sarah Hekmati, and his brother-in-law join us from Amir's hometown in Flint, Michigan.

Good evening to both of you. I can tell from you all my email I know you have great sadness with him Iran hasn't come home. First to you, when is the last time you had any communication from your brother, a Marine.

SARAH HEKMATI, SISTER OF US MARINE JAILED IN IRAN: First of all, Greta thank you so much for helping us make America aware. As of the past few months, Amir has been allowed short phone calls, five minute intervals maybe once a day. That's after us not having any contact with him for the past two years. So, within this three and a half time frame we have recently been able to have contact with him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Kurdi, do you know his physical condition? Because is he in a rough prison he has been there a long time, longer than anybody else.

DR. RAMY KURDI, BROTHER-IN-LAW OF US MARINE JAILED IN IRAN: At this point is he malnourished. He doesn't see it - he eats lentils, some protein there. He has lost over 30 pounds. He was a physical specimen, Marine trained even long after he served, ate healthy. He is very concerned about how he eats. How he lives right now, he is emaciated.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did he do?

KURDI: He was in the Marines, served four years. And then afterwards, he did contracting with the military. Shortly after finishing his contracts, he had no obligations and decided to visit his family.

HEKMATI: Also served as a translator as well. So he was working in the military as a translator.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sarah, why was he in Iran?

HEKMATI: Well, Amir obviously his parents were born in Iran and immigrated to the US, we were all born here in the United States. He never had an opportunity to visit his extended family. He had a two week stint in the summer where he was able to go visit his family and he obtained permission from the Iranian intersection in Washington DC. He was very he transparent before he left. He wanted to ensure that his military service here in the US would not bring any problems for him and was reassured there that it would not.

VAN SUSTEREN: Doctor, how did you find out he was being held. At one point he was sentenced to death. That was vacated, but then he was sentenced in a secret trial 10 years. When did you first learn that he had been picked up in the first place?

KURDI: We knew the day that he was picked up that he was missing. Family reported him missing from the apartment he was staying at. He stayed months. We were in the dark for months, never had official report, and contacted the state department. We had interactive advice from the state department try to stay quiet and appeal diplomatically. We were so quiet al that while he was being tortured forced into a confession, confined into 1 meter by 1 meter cell. This is before his 3-meter by 3-meter cell. One meter by 1 meters with a 10 minute break once a week to straight his legs. At that point it's the worse torture he ever had.

We were silent, thinking we would plead the cases. Lawyers there, lawyers here - we did our best only to find that our complacent quiet approach they built up a case with him sometime in December, released that they caught a spy and in January of 2012 sentenced him to death.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sarah, why did he join the Marines?

HEKMATI: You know he always wanted to be somebody that could achieve something that nobody has done before. And he is the first generation American he felt this was such an honorable way to do that. He always valued his service. He learned so much from his opportunity to serve in Iraq and to be able to help translate for officials there. And he really felt like his role was crucial because someone with a middle eastern background he was also able to help people to understand how to interact appropriately with the civilians, he really appreciated what he was able to experience in his service there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Doctor, certainly Montel Williams has been out there slugging it out trying to get attention. I'm curious whether our government has been likewise helpful and I realize its complicated negotiations with Iran. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the role of the state department in helping you?

KURDI: We respect our government; it's an honor and privilege to be here to have a criticism of our government. Other people don't have that luxury. Having said that we respect the efforts they have made directly to State Department. But, on our end, Congressman Kildee has come through 100% for us. And he has been our champion, speaking out for Amir.

State Department has been -- we would like them to do more. Without question, they have shown that they can do more for other people. We would like them to do everything that they can for Amir. Amir put his life on the line for the country, he'd do it again. Bring him home, he would do it right now. We want the State Department to show that same resolve.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, thank you. I hope the next time we are talking I hope it's very soon about your brother and brother-in-law on his way home. Thank you both.

HEKMATI/KURDI: Thank you for having us.