Once held in Iranian jail, Marine veteran fights espionage claims | Michigan Radio

Once held in Iranian jail, Marine veteran fights espionage claims

Mar 16, 2021

A 2016 file photo shows Amir Hekmati stepping off a plane at Bishop Airport in Flint.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A former U.S. Marine freed from Iranian custody five years ago is in court with the American government over whether he can collect a multimillion-dollar payment from a special fund for victims of international terrorism.

Newly filed court documents show that the FBI opened an investigation into the man, Amir Hekmati, on suspicions that he went to Iran to sell classified information to the regime. He vigorously disputes those allegations.

His lawyers note that Hekmati has never been charged and say the government's suspicions are groundless and based on hearsay. The FBI and Justice Department have declined to comment.

Hekmati returned to his hometown of Flint in 2016 as part of a prisoner exchange with Iran. He was originally arrested in Iran in 2011 while visiting his grandmother and charged with spying.  At one time, he was sentenced to death. His sentence was eventually changed to 10 years.

“It’s great to be back in Flint, my hometown. I love this city. I love it’s people," he said upon his return in 2016. "They have been so good to me and my family, and we’re very grateful.”

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