Amir Mirza Hekmati

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Amir Hekmati
Birth nameAmir Mirza Hekmati
BornFlagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States[1][2]
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps[1][2]
Years of service2001–2005[a]
Unit2nd Battalion, 4th Marines[2]
Battles/warsIraq War[1][2]
Alma materB.S. Economics University of Michigan
RelationsBehnaz Hekmati (mother)[3]
Ali Hekmati (father)[4][5]
Sarah Hekmati (sister)[1]
Other workBAE Systems
Kuma Reality Games
Lucid Linguistics, LLC

Amir Mirza Hekmati (Persian: امیر میرزا حکمتی); is a United States Marine veteran who was arrested in August 2011 for allegedly spying for the CIA in Iran. On January 9, 2012, he was sentenced to death for the charges.[6][7][8] On March 5, 2012, the Iranian Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and ordered a retrial, saying the verdict against Hekmati was "not complete".[9][10] On January 16, 2016, Hekmati was released and allowed to leave Iran as part of a prisoner trade between the U.S. and Iran.[11] He returned to the United States on January 21, 2016.[12] He sued the Government of Iran on May 11, 2016.[13] He received a default judgment of $63 million on October 3, 2017. In November 2019 he sued the government for unpaid compensation. According to the assistant attorney general they are reconsidering if he is eligible.[14]

Early life and education[edit]

Hekmati was born in Flagstaff, Arizona; he has a twin sister, Leila.[15][16] Hekmati's parents, Ali and Behnaz Hekmati, left Iran in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution and settled in Arizona, where Ali Hekmati finished a Ph.D. in microbiology.[16]

The family moved to Wayne Nebraska and spent several years there before moving to Michigan, where Hekmati's father accepted a position as professor of microbiology at Mott Community College in Flint.[16][4][5] The family lived in Flint and later Flint Township.[16]

In August 2001, Hekmati enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.[16][17] Amir completed his undergraduate degree in economics at the University of Michigan.[18]


Hekmati served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 20 August 2001 to 19 August 2005, when he was discharged as a Sergeant.[5][1][2] Hekmati completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, followed by the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, California, where he trained as a rifleman.[16] Amir also graduated from the Defense Language Institute having completed the Arabic Language course. He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon while deployed as a rifleman, and translator in Iraq, but he received no military intelligence training.[19][17]

After his discharge, Hekmati founded Lucid Linguistics LLC in February 2006 and worked as a military contractor translating Arabic and Persian.[17][20] Amir also developed a language, and cultural training app for the Department of Defense, that was later acquired by Vcom3d, and dubbed the Vcommunicator Mobile.[21] Between 2005 and 2007 he is alleged to have worked on a report on two-way translation systems published by Mitre Corporation for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).[17][22] He is cited in the "Acknowledgements" section of Applying Automated Metrics to Speech Translation Dialogs, a paper published by Mitre Corporation.[23][24] He was later employed by Kuma Reality Games to work on a language-learning video game for the United States Department of Defense.[25]

Between March and September 2010 Hekmati worked in Kansas for BAE Systems, a multinational defense contractor.[26][27] Hekmati worked in Iraq between September 2010 and May 2011 as a culture and language expert.[17][28] According to his parents, Ali and Behnaz Hekmati of Flint, Michigan, Hekmati travelled to Iran after obtaining permission from the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.[29][30]

Espionage arrest and trial[edit]

In August 2011, Hekmati was arrested while visiting his grandmother and other relatives in Iran.[29] According to his Iranian captors, Hekmati allegedly entered Iran from Bagram Airfield via Dubai.[31] On 18 December 2011, a confession by Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television and stated that he had infiltrated Iran in order to establish a CIA presence in the country.[32] Hekmati's family said that the confession was coerced,[29] and that he was not a spy.[2] The family is represented by a U.S. Attorney former Ambassador at Large Pierre-Richard Prosper.[33][34]

Iran alleges that Hekmati's mission was to implicate the country in state-sponsored terrorist activities.[6] On 24 December 2011, Switzerland, which manages diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States, applied for consular access to Hekmati. It was denied.[35] In his confession, Hekmati stated that his mission pertained to maintaining a presence, rather than undermining the integrity of the country.[36] According to excerpts from his alleged confession published in the Tehran Times, Hekmati said that Kuma Reality Games was paid by the CIA to design movies and video games to give the customers a distasteful impression of the Middle East.[37]

Iranian officials claim that Hekmati underwent intelligence training after joining the U.S. military in 2001.[7] They say he worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency between 2005 and 2007. Shortly before his mission to Iran, they claim he prepared at Bagram Airfield. An Iranian official attributed his recognition and capture to "Iranian networks monitoring activities in the Bagram base".

On 9 January 2012, Islamic Revolutionary Court declared Hekmati to be "Corrupt on Earth" (Mofsed-e-filarz) and an "enemy of God" (Mohareb). It sentenced him to death for cooperating with the United States.[6]

Death sentence annulled[edit]

On 5 March 2012, Iran's Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and ordered a retrial. The judges said the verdict against Hekmati was "not complete" and ordered a retrial.[9][38] Hekmati awaited a retrial[10] until April 2014, when his sister announced that a secret court had again convicted him of "practical collaboration with the U.S. government" and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.[39]

Calls for release[edit]

President Barack Obama repeatedly called upon Iran to release Hekmati as well as other U.S. citizens that were held prisoner, such as The Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini.[40][41]

On May 11, 2015, the United States Senate unanimously passed, 90–0, a resolution calling upon the Iranian government to immediately release Hekmati, Abedini, and Rezaian, and to cooperate with the U.S. government to locate and return Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent reported missing in Iran. The resolution also called upon the U.S. government to undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their release.[42]


On January 16, 2016, Hekmati was released from Iran along with three other U.S. nationals held prisoner in Iran—Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari—as part of an agreement between the U.S. and Iran. A fifth man, a recently detained student named Matthew Trevithick, was separately released.[43]

After being freed, Hekmati departed Iran and traveled to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where he underwent a medical evaluation. Hekmati returned to his family in Flint on January 21, 2016.[12]


On May 11, 2016, Hekmati sued the Government of Iran for his ordeal, with charges of economic damages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, claiming he was tortured, which included electric shock and forced drug withdrawal.[13]

On October 3, 2017, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Ellen S. Huvelle granted Hekmati a default judgment of $63 million.[14]

Awards and decorations[edit]

1st Row Combat Action Ribbon[2] Good Conduct Medal[2] National Defense Service Medal[2]
2nd Row Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal[2] Global War on Terrorism Service Medal[2] Sea Service Deployment Ribbon[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to his official U.S. Marine Corps service record, Hekmati served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 20 August 2001 to 19 August 2005.[2]
  2. ^ According to his official U.S. Marine Corps service record, Hekmati served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 1 April 2004 to 25 September 2004.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Harkins, Gina (17 May 2013). "Iran holds former Marine for almost 2 years: Dad sick with cancer, family seeks release". Military Times. Gannett Company, Inc. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Harris, David (9 January 2012). "U.S. Marine Corps releases Amir Hekmati's service record". The Flint Journal. MLive. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  3. ^ Ferran, Lee (22 February 2012). "Mom Visits Amir Hekmati, Former US Marine Sentenced to Death in Iran: Convicted of Espionage, 28-Year-Old Appeared Thin and Shocked on Death Row, Mom Says". ABC News. ABC News Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on 20 April 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b Adams, Dominic (25 September 2012). "Vigil for Amir Hekmati tonight at Mott". The Flint Journal. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Anderson, Elisha (25 September 2012). "Flint family has message for Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Let our son out of prison". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Iran sentences US man to death for spying". NBC News. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  7. ^ a b Marc Burleigh (18 December 2011). "Iran TV shows 'CIA spy' speaking of alleged mission". Agence France Presse. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-09. "It was their plan to first burn some useful information, give it to them (the Iranians) and let the intelligence ministry think that this is good material and contact me afterwards," the clean-shaven man in his 20s said.
  8. ^ "Iran sentences US man to death for spying". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 January 2012. Archived from the original on 10 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-09. But Hekmati's family in the United States told US media he had traveled to Iran to visit his Iranian grandmothers and he was not a spy.
  9. ^ a b "Iran pulls death penalty for Amir Mirzai Hekmati, former U.S. Marine convicted of spying for CIA | News | National Post". 27 December 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  10. ^ a b Al Hajal, Khalil (28 July 2012). "Family of Amir Hekmati issues statement marking Iran detainee's birthday as supporters in Flint plan benefit concert". M Live. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  11. ^ Michael Pearson; Elise Labott (16 January 2016). "Reporter Jason Rezaian among 5 Americans freed by Iran". CNN. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b Amir Hekmati arrives at Flint's Bishop Airport WJRT-TV, January 21, 2016
  13. ^ a b Former Marine Amir Hekmati sues Iran for alleged torture CNN, May 11, 2016
  14. ^ a b Judge orders Iran to pay Amir Hekmati $63 million for imprisonment, torture The Flint Journal via, October 3, 2017
  15. ^ "Iran Sentences American to Death Amid Tensions Over Hormuz". Businessweek. 8 December 2009. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Blake Thorne, The man who disappeared: Life before prison for captured Marine and Flint man Amir Hekmati, MLive (May 18, 2014).
  17. ^ a b c d e Pincus, Walter (23 January 2012). "An American is caught in Iran's spy game". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  18. ^ Carmody Steve,"Amir Hekmati: One Year Later", Michigan Public Radio, January 16, 2017
  19. ^ Ferran, Lee (20 December 2011). "American Held By Iran as CIA 'Spy' Had No Military Intel Training". ABC News. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Convicted spy's war-games work cited". United Press International. 11 January 2012.
  21. ^ "Limited Liability Company Details". Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  22. ^ Martin, Adam (19 December 2011). "Iran Shows the Man It Alleges Is a U.S. Spy on State Television". The Atlantic.
  23. ^ Mitre Corporation. "Applying Automated Metrics to Speech Translation Dialogs" (PDF). International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation. p. 8. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  24. ^ Parvaz, Dan. "Applying Automated Metrics to Speech Translation Dialogs". Mitre Corporation.
  25. ^ Totilo, Stephen (29 August 2012). "The United States Government Kindly Asks Iran To Free Imprisoned American Game Developer Already". Kotaku.
  26. ^ Rozen, Laura (9 January 2012). "U.S. condemns reported Iran death sentence for former U.S. Marine". Yahoo News.
  27. ^ Karimi, Nasser; Brian Murphy (9 January 2012). "Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, Former U.S. Marine, Sentenced To Death In Iran". Huffington Post.
  28. ^ "Amir Mirzaei Hekmati". The New York Times. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  29. ^ a b c Death row American's lawyer calls for compassion from Iran By Bryony Jones, CNN | 10 January 2012
  30. ^ Newton, Paula (25 September 2012). "Father fears he may never see his son imprisoned in Iran". CNN.
  31. ^ Burgleigh, Marc (18 December 2011). "Iran TV shows 'CIA spy' speaking of alleged mission".
  32. ^ Tito, Greg (18 December 2011). "Iran state TV airs "confession" of detained CIA spy". Reuters. Archived from the original on 9 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
  33. ^ Dover, Sara. "Mitt Romney Advisor Pierre Prosper hired in Iran spy case". International Business Times. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  34. ^ Labott, Elise. "EXCLUSIVE: Lawyer takes on Iran spy case". CNN. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  35. ^ "U.S. citizen goes on trial in Iran on spying charges". Reuters. 27 December 2011. Archived from the original on 30 December 2011.
  36. ^ Mingxin, Bi (28 December 2011). "Iran holds first trial session of "CIA agent"". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
  37. ^ Tito, Greg (9 January 2012). "Jailed Spy: CIA Paid Developer to Make Anti-Middle East Games". Escapist Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2012. mirror Archived 14 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Ferran, Lee. "15. Report: American Ex-Marine 'spy' in Iran to get retrial". ABC News. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  39. ^ Sciutto, Jim; Chelsea J. Carter (11 April 2014). "Family: Ex-US Marine convicted in Iran, sentenced to 10 years prison". Cable News Network. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  40. ^ David Jackson, Obama calls on Iran to release U.S. citizens, USA Today (March 20, 2015).
  41. ^ Obama calls on Iran to release 'unjustly detained' Americans, The Guardian (July 21, 2015). See also President Obama Calls for the Release of Amir Hekmati and Other Americans Held in Iran, C-SPAN (video of July 21, 2015 speech to Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention).
  42. ^ Senate Calls on Iran to Release U.S. Citizens, United States Institute of Peace (May 11, 2015).
  43. ^ Michael Pearson (16 January 2016). "5 Americans released by Iran, 4 as part of prisoner swap". CNN. Retrieved 16 January 2016.

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