FLINT, Mich. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan spoke briefly with President Barack Obama after the State of the Union address about an ex-Marine held in Iran on spying charges for more than two years, according to a spokesman for the congressman.
Kildee, a Democrat from Flint, also discussed the case of Amir Hekmati on Tuesday on the U.S. House floor with Secretary of State John Kerry and Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kildee’s spokesman Mitchell Rivard said in a statement.
“He is very appreciative of the Obama administration’s continued efforts to help facilitate Amir’s release and hopes that Iran will release him soon so he can be reunited with his family in Michigan,” Rivard said.
The Obama administration in November asked for Iran to free Hekmati and two other Americans believed held there.
Hekmati’s family in the Flint area says he traveled to Iran to visit his grandmothers when he was arrested in 2011. Tehran accused him of being a CIA spy, then tried, convicted and sentenced him to death. Iran’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial in 2012, but he remains imprisoned.
U.S. officials and family members deny he was spying.
Hekmati, who was born in Arizona, carries U.S. and Iranian passports.
Hekmati’s family members told The Associated Press in a statement Wednesday that they’re grateful for all of Kildee’s efforts.
“While Amir has been away from us for 883 days, much in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, we are hopeful that he will be released soon and that the Iranian authorities will see that Amir has been punished enough,” the statement read.
A letter dated Monday and signed by one-time Secretary of Defense William Cohen and retired Gens. Peter Pace, James Jones and Joseph Ralston urged the White House to take “immediate action to facilitate the release” of Hekmati.
The letter from Cohen and the former military brass came as a six-month temporary agreement was going into effect that partially halts Iran’s nuclear progress. Iran and world powers now will try to forge a permanent deal.