The Flint, Michigan Marine imprisoned for more than four years in an Iranian prison has written a new book about his experience.
Entitled “Crossfire: Trapped in the US-Iran Covert War,” Amir Hekmati details his arrest, conditions in prison, treatment by interrogators and stories of other Americans and Iranians impacted by an ongoing conflict between the countries.
A 2001 Flint Central High School graduate and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Hekmati was taken into custody on Aug. 29, 2011, as he prepared to attend a family holiday celebration.
He’d traveled to Tehran — Iran’s capital city – two weeks earlier for the first time to visit his grandmother and other relatives.
Hekmati was originally sentenced to death on a charge of espionage, which was eventually overturned. He was later charged with cooperating with and collaborating with the U.S. government and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“My recovery from the events in Iran are ongoing,” he told MLive-The Flint Journal.
Efforts began to free Hekmati following his imprisonment, from the #freeamir campaign on social media to diplomatic efforts by government officials including U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, speaking with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during a 2015 visit to New York.
He returned to Flint on January 22, 2016 after being released and spending several days in Germany where Hekmati was met by family and government officials, including Kildee.
Hekmati was one of four Americans freed by the Iranian government in exchange for clemency of seven Iranians over trade sanction violations.
“Almost five years of my life were stolen, some of my best years were lost — 28 to 32 (years old) — so I didn’t have the time to continue to lose more time dwelling over the past,” he said. “Upon return from Iran, I did speak to counselors, but my family, and faith has been the greatest help in moving on, and I’d say that while it’s not a situation one can ever completely recover from, I’m grateful to have been able to continue on with my life.”
The book’s title alludes to arrests that began in 2001 in Iran, specifically targeting Iranian Americans.
“They were never about the individuals themselves. Whether it was me, Saeed Abedini the Christian Pastor, Jason Rezaian, the (Washington Post) reporter, or others, it wasn’t that the regime in Iran had personal vendettas against us as individuals,” said Hekmati. “We were ‘caught in the crossfire’ of an ongoing conflict between two countries.”
Hekmati, 36, feels relations between the countries have worsened and unless there is a major policy shift things will continue down the same path.
“There are a dozen or so Americans, Brits, Europeans, and Aussies imprisoned in Iran as we speak,” he said, one of whom is a former U.S. Navy member. “However, despite the ongoing impasse neither the USA or Iran want another war in the region, so the continued trend of confrontation by proxy is destined to continue.”
Hekmati sued the Iranian government in May 2016, with a U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle of Washington ruling in his favor for a $63 million default judgement, but he has not received any of the funds to date.
After spending two years in Flint upon his release to spend time with family, recuperate, and take care of his ailing father, Hekmati moved to Houston in 2018 where he runs TradeFlow LLC which advises investors, institutions and family offices on investments in financial commodities, specifically oil and gasoline.
A lawsuit filed in November 2019 against the U.S. government seeking compensation through the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund continues to make its way through the court system.
Those interested in the book can find it for purchase online here.
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