Last updated: 29 August, 2012

US urges Iran to free ex-Marine

The United States on Wednesday urged Iran to free a former US Marine on the anniversary of his detention, voicing concern over lack of access to him and denying charges that he was a spy.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland welcomed the decision in March by Iran’s Supreme Court to overturn a death sentence on Amir Mirzai Hekmati but “remained troubled” by the lack of consular access to him.

“Mr. Hekmati now has spent a year in prison on charges that are categorically false, and he endured a closed-door trial with little regard for fairness and transparency,” Nuland said in a statement.

“We remain concerned over reports of Mr. Hekmati’s health condition in prison and urge the Iranian government to release him so that he may be reunited with his family,” she said.

The former Marine was born in the United States but also holds Iranian nationality. He appeared on state television in December saying in Farsi and English that he was a CIA operative sent to infiltrate Iranian intelligence.

Iranian officials said Hekmati’s cover was blown when Iranian agents spotted him at the US-run Bagram military base in Afghanistan. Hekmati’s family says that he went to Iran to see relatives.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, which has clashed with Western powers and Israel over its contested nuclear program.

Iran has detained but eventually released a number of Americans in recent years, including three US citizens who said they were innocent hikers.