Anchor Lisa Mullins finds out more about Amir Hekmati, the Iranian-American sentenced to death for spying in Iran, from Hadi Ghaemi, of the International Campaign for Human Rights, in New York.
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Lisa Mullins: Amir Hekmati was tried and sentenced in Tehran as an Iranian citizen, but he’s also an American citizen, born to Iranian parents in Arizona and raised here in the US. Hadi Ghaemi has been in touch with Hekmati’s family. Ghaemi runs the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. He is based in New York.
Hadi Ghaemi: The family are in total shock at the news and they don’t know anymore than what the media has reported so far, and particularly given that Iranian judiciary has not allowed them to have legal representation inside Iran. They have no contact and no more information at the moment.
Mullins: And who is he being represented by if…
Ghaemi: In the lower court there was a court-appointed lawyer, who from what we understand, practically did nothing to present the facts and launch a credible defense for Amir.
Mullins: Well, what would have been appropriate in terms of his defense?
Ghaemi: Well, any good lawyer would have asked for any incriminating evidence that based on what evidence is being charged with his membership in the CIA and doing spy work in Iran.
Mullins: Excuse me for one second, do you know if that was ever presented by the government?
Ghaemi: Yes, the government is saying because of his record in the military he has been recruited by the CIA to go there and infiltrate the Iranian Intelligence Services, which is highly unlikely scenario given Amir had never been to Iran and had no understanding or record of working on Iran issues.
Mullins: He was in the Marine Corps where he served as a translator, and what was he doing for work at the time he was in Iran?
Ghaemi: At the time we understand that he was a freelance contractor. He actually did not have any permanent job and just wanted to go visit his grandmother on the even of a major holiday.
Mullins: And did the government know this, know about his background?
Ghaemi: Yes, yes exactly, the point is that when Amir applied for his passport processing at the intersection of the Iranian government in Washington, DC, he provided all details of his military service, which goes back to 2001 up to 2005. And sought assurances from them that this is not going to cause him any trouble. And they told him it should be all fine. And actually when he arrived in the airport there was no questioning and no issues. Only two weeks after he was in Iran he was detained.
Mullins: I wonder given the language skills of Amir Hekmati and the fact that he has local connections, family there, and given his military background, does it seem to you plausible that he could be a spy?
Ghaemi: Not at all. Again, why should he go there telling the Iranian government his entire background? Why should he carry IDs showing he has had been enrolled in the US military? And knowing the Iranian Intelligence Services and government it would be extremely difficult to penetrate and make connections to provide any kind of information out of that system. It’s extremely opaque and hard to have any access to the inner workings of the Iranian government.
Mullins: What else do you know about him?
Ghaemi: From what I understand he had never been to Iran, but had a great love for the culture and the country, and his family there. And that this summer since he was in the region he decided to go and pay a visit to his grandmother. He felt like he just was making a short vacation there, but they trapped him basically.
Mullins: Do you know anything about how he is coping since he’s been imprisoned for what is it, four months now?
Ghaemi: Yeah, more than four months, August 29 is when he was detained. And no, there’s been no access to him really. The Swiss embassy that represents the American government interest in Tehran has not been allowed any access to him. The family-appointed lawyer has not been given any information or access to him. So he’s been kept in pretty much isolation and this again, is just a classic pattern of holding people in solitary confinement for months and then urging them to cooperate with interrogators to get a lenient outcome. And it always turns the other way. People who do cooperate and keep silence, the families keep silent, are always shocked to find out that all of the promises made were false. And in this case a death sentence is very shocking.
Mullins: Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, speaking to us from New York, thanks.
Ghaemi: Thank you, it is my pleasure.
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