Former Marine held captive in Iran is reunited with family after 4.5 years

FRANKFURT, Germany. (WOOD/AP) — An American man and former Marine held in captivity in Iran for more than four years was finally reunited with some of his family on Monday.

Flint, Mich. native Amir Hekmati and four other Americans were released in a prisoner swap over the weekend. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. His family says he has lost significant weight and has trouble breathing, raising fears he could contract tuberculosis. Hekmati says he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with his ailing grandmother. After his arrest, family members say they were told to keep the matter quiet.

He was convicted of spying and sentenced to death in 2012. After a higher court ordered a retrial, he was sentenced in 2014 to 10 years on a lesser charge.

After four and a half years, Amir was reunited with his sisters Leila and Sarah Hekmati and brother-in-law Ramy Kurdy Monday afternoon at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, according to the Free Amir Hekmati Twitter page.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee also traveled to Germany with the family and met Amir for the first time.

Amir’s sister Sarah was upbeat as she arrived Monday at Frankfurt airport before heading toward the U.S. military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where her brother was being treated along with Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and pastor Saeed Abedini.

“We are looking forward to meeting him, hopefully soon, and we are very excited,” she said as she left the airport with her husband.

“We are waiting to see when they’ll let us.”

Hekmati’s release was part of an extraordinary weekend of diplomacy that saw the release of five Americans and the lifting of billions in international sanctions on Iran as part of a nuclear accord.

“(Hekmati is) somebody that I’ve been working to free and a person that I feel like I’ve come to know ever since I came to Congress, though I’ve never spoken to him on the phone (and) I’ve never had the chance to meet him,” Kildee said. “That changes (Monday).”

Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. He and his family deny any wrongdoing, and say his imprisonment has included physical and mental torture and long periods of solitary confinement in a tiny cell.


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