When former US Marine Amir Hekmati was released from an Iranian prison in 2016 via a diplomatic move, it was hailed as a major breakthrough in US/Iran relations. Because of his ordeal, Hekmati qualified for $20-million in compensation from a little-known special government fund. But the check never arrived. And he may never see it.
When Hekmati was arrested he wasn’t traveling as a Marine. He went to Iran to visit his grandmother who still lives there. Or, so he said. As it turns out, the check hasn’t arrived yet because Hekmati is under FBI investigation for selling classified secrets to the government of his motherland, and has been since he arrived home stateside, but the investigation is based on mere suspicion.
Hekmati denies the allegations with every drop of his Marine Corps blood, and five years after his return home he has yet to face any criminal charges. But due to the supposed ongoing investigation, and the FBI’s assumption that he lied, he is no longer eligible to receive the money he claims is rightfully due him.
Hekmati’s release had been championed by the US government. The entire scene was built around him being a US citizen, a patriotic Marine, and a distinguished Iraq war veteran. Then-Vice President Joe Biden, along with the former secretary of state John Kerry made a tremendous hoopla over the event. But the FBI has a different take on things. They have documents detailing why Hekmati’s visit remains in dispute.
The special government fund to which Hekmati feels he is entitled is reserved for victims of international terrorism, which the FBI feels he may have contributed to in lieu of being victimized by.
In a sworn statement Hekmati said he would never in a million years sell out his country and that the FBI’s allegations are both offensive and ridiculous. His attorney, Scott Gilbert called the government out by saying, “In this case, the U.S. government should put up or shut up. If the government believes they have a case, indict Amir. Try Amir. But you, the U.S. government, won’t do that because you can’t do that. You don’t have sufficient factual evidence to do that.”
Gilbert has prevented his client from making any public statements or taking interviews, and the FBI refuses to comment. Nonetheless, documents reveal how the FBI began their espionage investigation in 2011 when Hekmati was arrested by Iranian officials on suspicion of being a CIA spy. Five years prior to his release.
Hekmati is the son of Iranian immigrants who was raised in Michigan. He was honorably discharged from the Marines in 2005 after serving in the infantry and as an interpreter in Iraq. After his discharge, he accepted a temporary stint in Afghanistan as an intelligence analysis contractor for the US Defense Department. Not satisfied with the work he had been tasked to do, Hekmati resigned. It was then when he went to visit his grandmother in Iran who was not well at the time.
Hekmati said it was no secret about the work he had been doing. He was openly researching Iran to surmise how much of an influence they were having on Afghanistan. Everyone knew exactly what he had been doing. In a hearing last year, he said that he already left his job as a contractor prior to leaving to visit his grandmother. He said he never met with even one Iranian official nor did he try to sell government secrets because he had no secrets to sell.
Hekmati was originally sentenced to death before the Iranian court opted for a 10-year sentence instead. While incarcerated he was subjected to torture and made to appear on video confessing bogus crimes he didn’t commit. Gilbert made complete sense by pointing out that had his client actually been working for Iran, “You’d think the guy would have been a valuable asset, they actually would have wanted to do something with him rather than abuse him.”
Hekmati is a tried and true American who willfully served in the US Marine Corps, and was honorable discharged. He has proved his patriotism and as his attorney so eloquently stated, “the U.S. government should put up or shut up.”