Middle East

Marine veteran imprisoned in Iran secretly convicted, handed 10-year sentence, report says

A U.S. Marine veteran who was charged with spying after visiting his grandmother in Iran was secretly convicted of “practical collaboration with the American government” and sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison, The New York Times reported.

Amir Hekmati, 30, an American of Iranian descent, has been detained since August 2011 on charges of spying for the CIA and was sentenced to death, but those charges were reportedly overturned.

Hekmati's new lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, one of the most influential in the country, told the paper that his client was unaware of his newest conviction in December or the fact that his case was even being retried. His client has maintained his innocence.

The paper said news of Hekmati's sentence came after a series of interviews at Tabatabaei’s office in Tehran and offers the first official insight to his legal status in two years.

Tabatabaei said despite the ruling, his client could be freed if the U.S. agrees to release some Iranian prisoners, the report said.

He also told the paper that his client has been a good inmate at the notorious Evin prison and he's trying to get him released after he serves three years of the sentence.

Hekmati's detention has gained the attention from politicians. In September, congressmen held up signs reading “Free Amir” in an effort to raise awareness.

There are currently two other American citizens being detained in Iranian prisons, including Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor from Idaho who was arrested for proselytizing when he went to his homeland to help build a secular orphanage, and ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson is believed to be held there, although the Iranian government denies it.

In February, the State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Iranian Foreign Minister and “pressed the Iranians to work cooperatively with us in out efforts to help United States citizens Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini to return to their families."  

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