Will commander in chief leave US Marine, others behind in Iran deal?

Commentary by Kay B. Day

US Marine vet Amir Hekmati

US Marine veteran Amir Hekmati remains imprisoned in Iran after visiting his ancestral country to see his grandmother. (Facebook page snip: Free Amir Hekmati)

The country of Iran has taken center of the world stage lately as the administration of President Barack Obama discusses a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. Media reports suggest Iran will be the greatest beneficiary, but full details haven’t been released yet.

Some of us wonder whether Americans being held prisoner in Iran will be part of any deal. Will our commander in chief leave a US Marine, a Christian pastor, and a journalist behind once the deal with the Islamic clerics running the country is sealed? 

At present there are three: US Marine vet Amir Hekmati (shown in featured photo) , journalist Jason Rezaian, and Pastor Saeed Abedini. All three appear to have been arrested without good cause.

The American Center for Law and Justice has worked diligently to bring Pastor Abedeni home amid a global climate of genocide, both political and physical, against Christians and others who do not espouse faith as interpreted by some Islamist groups or government powers.

A recent statement at the ACLJ website said Pastor Abedeni has been imprisoned for 920 days in a prison where he has been subject to repeated beatings. The Christian pastor was accused by Iran’s government of holding private services in homes in the country.

USA Today recently covered the imprisonment of Rezaian:

“A dual Iranian-American citizen and the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief since 2012, Rezaian was arrested along with his wife, Iranian journalist Yeganeh Salehi, and two others in July. The others have been released, and Salehi’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, will replace Shafii on Rezaian’s case.”

Rezaian allegedly is guilty of “participating in activities outside the scope of journalism.”

Iran has no equivalent of the US First Amendment. No country, as a matter of fact, limits government power over speech or the practice of one’s faith as decisively as the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Iran is a Shia-ruled country. The BBC said approximately 10 percent of Muslims are Shia.

Although the US president commands the country’s armed forces, US Marine Hekmati has drawn scant attention from the administration. Hekmati has advocates at the family and grassroots level, and celebrity Montel Williams [@Montel_Williams on Twitter] has advocated passionately for the young Marine who was arrested when he visited Iran to see his grandmother. It was the first time he visited his ancestral country.

Unlike many celebrities, Williams also served in the US Marines, and his record is exemplary.

Hekmati’s visit to Iran was interrupted weeks after his arrival by his arrest and imprisonment. His family’s description of events suggested he was forced to admit to something he did not do.

As a US military veteran, he may have simply been targeted because of his service.

Hekmati has been in prison since 2011. He was first sentenced to death, and after a series of court procedures, that sentence—he was tried in “a secret, closed-door proceeding”—was changed to 10 years. Neither Hekmati nor his attorney were permitted to attend the proceeding, a human rights violation so egregious it is hard to understand the world’s apathy.

Hekmati’s family posts updates on Twitter @FreeAmirHekmati.

Abedini’s wife Naghmeh posts updates on Twitter @NaghmehAbedini.

Rezaian’s Twitter feed is still online although the timeline hasn’t been updated recently [@jrezaian], but the journalist was very pro-Iran if you read his page. For instance, he retweeted this message before his imprisonment:

“Arron Reza Merat @a_merat  ·  Jul 17

Keyhan: ‘If a drug peddler, a murderer or a rapist is punished in a country like Iran, it [the West] makes hue and cry about human rights…’

Rezaian also reported via Twitter: “Sanctions on #Iran cost the U.S. as much as $175 billion.”

As Obama’s appointees accommodate Iran on the nuclear program, it would be a good thing if the public reminded this administration Americans are being held against their wills and the only justice Iran provided appears to comprise kangaroo court proceedings. It is bad enough when a US Marine visits his grandmother and is tossed into prison for no good reason. It is bad enough when a Christian pastor is persecuted because of his faith, although political persecution of that nature occurs in the US as well.

What’s worse?

Capitulating to a country whose economy is still fragile despite signs of slow recovery. Has Obama’s approach on this matter strengthened a regime whose policy on human rights is virtually nonexistent?

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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