Couple talks about Iran’s alleged death sentence against their son

FLINT TWP. — Ali and Behnaz Hekmati, a township couple, are distressed by reports that their son has been sentenced to death in Iran, accused of being an American spy.

Unconfirmed reports say Amir Hekmati, 28, who for a time attended Carman- Ainsworth schools, has been found guilty of charges made when he was detained in August of 2011.

His parents have been advised not to talk to the media but have issued statements through The David House Agency, an international crisis management service.

In a statement Monday, Behnaz Hekmati said she and her husband, Ali, who teaches at Mott Community College, are shocked and terrified by the news their son has been sentenced to death.

“ We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair,’’ she said. “ The Iranian authorities are denying that Amir is a United States citizen, despite the fact he was born in Flagstaff, Ariz., Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or “fighting against God,” as the convicting Judge has claimed in his sentence. “Amir is not a criminal. His very life is being exploited for political gain. A grave error has been committed, and we have authorized our legal representatives to make direct contact with the Iranian authorities to find a solution to this misunderstanding. We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son.”

As of Monday, Hekmati’s death sentence had not been confirmed by the U.S. government.

“ We’ve seen the press report on the sentencing, but we have not, ourselves, been able to independently confirm it,” said Victoria Nuland, a U.S. Department of State spokesperson, in a press briefing on Monday.

“ We are working now through the Swiss protecting power in Tehran to confirm the sentence. We have also not been able to be in contact with him, nor has the Swiss protecting power despite the fact that the Swiss have asked numerous times for access to him and are asking, obviously, again today,” Nuland said.

She said if the death sentence is confirmed, the U.S. government would condemn the verdict “in the strongest terms,’’

“ We are working with all of our partners to convey that condemnation to the Iranian Government,’’ she said “ We’ve maintained from the beginning that the charges against him were a fabrication and we call on the Iranian Government to release him immediately.’’

In a late December press statement, Hekmati’s mother described her son as a kind and gentle person who would help anyone needing assistance.

She confirmed that her son, a former Marine, was enlisted in the U.S. military and served as a translator but said the spying allegation is false. The family is disturbed by reports that Hekmati admitted to the spy charges.

“It is clear to me and our entire family that Amir is speaking under duress,’’ Behnaz Hekmati said. “Amir was excited to be visiting his two grandmothers in Iran before returning to the United States and going to the University of Michigan to work towards his economics degree.”

The courts statement that he planned to permanently reside in Iran is an indication that he is not speaking freely, she said, adding that her son has financial and business investments in the United States that he would never abandon.

Since Hekmati was detained and imprisoned on Aug. 29 he has not been allowed to speak to his family in the United States, his mother said.

“It has been a long and traumatic four months for all of us,” she said. We just want Amir home with us as soon as possible.”

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