06-16-2015 – By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press – WASHINGTON – The U.S. House voted unanimously Monday for a resolution urging Iran to release a Flint man held in captivity for more than three years and two other Americans as well.
The resolution, introduced by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, mirrors one already passed in the Senate. While it doesn’t carry the force of law, Kildee and others hope it puts pressure on Iran — engaged in nuclear talks with the Obama administration — to release the men.
Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who was born in the U.S., was arrested while in Iran visiting relatives in 2011. Initially charged as a spy, he was originally sentenced to life in prison, though it was later reduced to 10 years.
Hekmati and his family have denied the charges and it is hoped that that the resolution — a sense of Congress asking for the release of the men — will put pressure on Iran as it negotiates a lifting of western economic sanctions in exchange for scaling back its nuclear program
“Today Congress spoke with one voice to tell Iran that it cannot continue to hold American political prisoners like Amir Hekmati if they are serious about reengaging the global community,” Kildee said. It passed 391-0.
The resolution also calls on Iran to release a Christian pastor, Saeed Abedini of Idaho and Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent, who also have been imprisoned. It also calls for the Iranian government to provide information about the fate of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the continued detention of the three Americans “underscores the complete lack of justice — really, the brutal treatment — they have faced in Iran.”
“As we approach the deadline for negotiations on a nuclear agreement with Iran, we have to ask — if top Iranian officials can’t be counted on to release these wrongfully jailed Americans, how can they be counted on to honor the commitments they make at the negotiating table?” he said.
The Obama administration also called for the men to be released though it has said their status should not be part of the nuclear talks.
Contact Todd Spangler at 703-854-8947 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.