Kerry pressures Iran to release former Marine from 'unjust detention'

Kerry pressures Iran to release former Marine from 'unjust detention'
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Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWill we ever have another veteran as president? The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's reelection message: Promises kept MORE is calling on Iran to release former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, as the anniversary of his detention approaches on Saturday. 

"This Saturday marks the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention on false espionage charges while visiting his relatives in Iran," Kerry said in a statement.

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"We repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Amir on humanitarian grounds. The Hekmati family needs Amir — their brother, their son, their uncle — to be home where he belongs," he said. 

Hetmaki was arrested in 2011 while visiting his grandmother in Iran, charged with espionage and sentenced to death. After an appeal, he was charged with "cooperating with hostile governments" and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

"This is a milestone no family wants to mark, and the Hekmati family has shown inspiring perseverance in the face of this injustice. And as befits a former Marine, Amir has shown tremendous courage in the face of this unjust detention," Kerry said. 

Also in Iranian custody is Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared eight years ago and is believed to be in Iranian hands. 

Rezaian has been facing trial for allegations of espionage. A ruling is expected in the coming days. 

The four-year anniversary of Hekmati's detention is sure to be noted by members of Congress who have slammed the administration for not linking the Iran nuclear deal to the release of the prisoners.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a 2016 presidential contender, sent Kerry a letter last month on the issue.

"It is unacceptable that the United States has reached a final agreement with Iran while innocent Americans languish in the most brutal conditions of Iranian jail cells."  

Administration officials have argued that the nuclear deal and the Americans' detentions are separate issues, and that the nuclear negotiations focused on limiting Iran's nuclear program only. 

Members of Rezaian's family have said although they knew the issues were not linked, they were disappointed he was not released after the nuclear deal was announced in July.

The House and Senate both unanimously passed a resolution calling for their release earlier this year. 

Kerry vowed to continue to work toward Hekmati's release. 

"As President Obama said recently in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we are not going to relent until we bring Amir home. I join the president in his steadfast commitment to reunite Amir with his family," he said. 

"We also call on the government of Iran to release Saeed Abedini and Jason Rezaian, and to work cooperatively with us to locate Robert Levinson, so that all can be returned to their families," he said.