Those We Left Behind

Those We Left Behind

Retired Marine Sergeant Amir Mirza Hekmati has spent three and a half years in the Iranian Evin prison, a reputed hellhole from all accounts; condemned initially to death, the sentence was later reduced to ten years. He is accused of spying for the United States. In case you have not heard of Amir (unless you are a regular Fox News viewer) here are some pertinent facts: Amir Hekmati was born on July 27, 1983 in Flagstaff, Arizona of Iranian parents. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2001 and was honorably discharged in 2005 with the rank of Sergeant in the 1st Marine Division. Here is part of his record:

Took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Combat Action Ribbon

Good Conduct Medal

National Defense Service Medal

Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

After discharge he founded Lucid Linguistics LLC in 2006 and worked as a military contractor translating Arabic and Persian and later worked for Kuma Reality Games developing a language learning game for the U.S. Dept of Defense and while in Kansas he worked for BAF Systems, a multinational defense contractor as a cultural and language expert. The preceding information was taken from Wikipedia.

In August of 2011 he visited Iran to see his gravely ill grandmother and roughly two weeks into his visit he was arrested amid great fanfare, charged with espionage and sentenced to death. His sentence was later overturned and a new trial ordered, which took place behind closed doors, without Amir’s presence and no legal defense allowed; the result was a 10-year sentence for cooperating with a hostile government (US)  Even though Amir is a natural born citizen of the United States, because Iranian law considers children born abroad of Iranian parents to be citizens of Iran, they charged him as an Iranian, even though he publicly renounced his so-called Iranian citizenship. The Swiss government, which represents U.S. Interests in Iran, has not been allowed to visit him.

Amir has been tortured, placed in isolation and given drugs in order to break his will. In the recent nuclear negotiations in Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry did not see fit to bring up Amir’s case once. So far, only Greta van Susteren, of the Fox News Network and talk show host Montel Williams, himself a Marine, have made it a point to keep his name front and center in the news. The other outlets are silent.

Amir’s father, Ali Hekhmat has brain cancer and also has had a stroke; he wants to see his son before he dies. Amir has a mother, Behnaz Hekmati and a sister, Sarah Hekmati. Amir is a natural born American citizen of Iranian descent who has served his country faithfully and honorably and now rots in a prison notorious for its brutality. He certainly deserves more than the inane platitudes uttered by the officials of the country of his birth.

Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen born in Iran was sentenced to 8 years in prison accused of evangelizing in the Islamic Republic . He was sentenced in Tehran by judge Pir-Abassi, known as the “hanging judge”. Iran recognizes Christianity as a minority religion, but Muslim converts to Christianity face discrimination, sometimes death and are not allowed to worship with other Christians in established churches; this has led to the establishment of underground house churches where these converts can worship together, albeit illegally.

Saeed Abedini was born May 7, 1980 and converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000. In 2002 he met and married his wife Naghmeh. He was ordained  minister and in 2010 became an American citizen. His family is located in Boise, Idaho, where Naghmeh grew up. They have two children and are members of the Calvary Chapel Church in Boise.

Pastor Saeed has been in prison since the summer of 2012 “for undermining the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam”. Initially he was incarcerated in the notorious Evin prison but in November 2013, he was transferred to the Rajai Shahr prison in the town of Karaj. This is a prison populated by hard core criminals and infamous for its harsh and life-threatening conditions.

According to his wife Haghmeh Abedini, in a public appearance on September 25 2011, he is being threatened by guards who tell him that “he will never be free until he renounces Jesus Christ and returns to Islam”, which he has steadfastly refused to do. To make matters even more dire for him, there have been mass executions in the prison. In response to the beatings and mistreatments he has endured, the U.S. State Department issued the following written statement:

We remain concerned about Mr Abedini’s health and welfare, especially given reports of mistreatments during his transfer back to Rajai Shahr prison. We repeat our request for Iran to permit Mr Abedini to receive any necessary medical treatment and to grant Swiss officials, who serve as our protective power, consular access to determine his well-being. We remain in touch with Mr Abedini’s family regarding developments in his case. We call on Iran to release Mr Abedini so he may be returned to his family”

Words that can hardly be expected to send the mullahs cowering under their beds. The State Department and President Obama have used harsher language when addressing our Israeli allies.

Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi’s story has a happier ending (of sorts) for he was returned to his family but only after spending 214 days in a Mexican prison chained to his bed. He was arrested after taking a wrong turn at a poorly marked border crossing near San Diego and winding up in Mexico, where he explained to the border guards that he had mistakenly entered the country and wanted to return to the US. When the guards asked if he had any weapons, he said he did and was arrested on the spot on charges of bringing military grade weapons into Mexico, where they are illegal.

Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi is a veteran of two tours of duty in Afghanistan and suffers from PTSD. He left his Daytona Beach home, loaded everything he owned in a truck, including military grade weapons (as defined by Mexican statutes) and headed for San Diego to get treatment for his PTSD

He was released only after a very lengthy, closed trial in Mexico and a Congressional hearing in the US, which was highly critical of the Obama administration’s efforts (or lack thereof) to secure his freedom. The diplomatic efforts on his behalf came from former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) and representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Matt Salma (R-AZ), along with talk show host Montel Williams and the nightly efforts of Fox News Channel Greta van Susteren who kept Sgt Tahmooressi’s plight front and center in the news. US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) held a rally in support of the Marine’s release. “Where is the outrage” she said “and where are our highest officials calling and demanding his release, or at the very least, his day in court?” Both Ed Royce and Matt Salma visited Tahmooressi in the Tecate prison, where he was held, harassed by guards, in isolation to keep him safe from the other inmates and chained to his bed. After diplomatic pushes to help convince a judge to release the Marine on humanitarian grounds, the Mexican PGR (Attorney General) withdrew all charges.

From his prison, Sgt Tahmooressi appealed to President Obama to intercede for his release, pointing out that Obama had secured the freedom of US soldier Bowe Berghdal. Obama met with Mexican President Nieto on his trip to Mexico City but Sgt Tahmooressi’s plight was not part of the discussion.

Apparently, the mistake made by Sgt Tahmooressi was to not have walked away from his post and to have not bad mouthed his country. That would have guaranteed presidential intervention on his behalf.

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