Former Pendleton Marine among Americans released by Iran


Amir Hekmati

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -  A former Camp Pendleton Marine is among the three Americans returning to the United States after being held prisoner in Iran for years.

Iran freed four U.S. prisoners as part of a prisoner swap, including Amir Hekmati, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, senior U.S. administration officials said.

A fifth man -- described as a recently detained student named Matthew Trevithick -- was separately released, U.S. officials said.

Hekmati reunited with his family in Germany Sunday after being held prisoner in Iran. The 32-year-old is now with his two sisters, brother-in-law, as well as U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, of Michigan.

"Amir Hekmati's a patriot. He served in the U.S. Marines Corp, grew up in my hometown," said Kildee. "He went to visit his family and disappeared. Now, four and a half years later, he's finally coming home.”

Hekmati was stationed at Camp Pendleton during his military career  and served honorably in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Hekmati was detained in 2011, weeks after arriving in Iran to visit his grandmother, according to his family's website. The former Marine infantryman and Arabic and Persian linguist was accused of espionage and other charges in 2012.

He appeared on Iranian television and said he was working for the CIA in a confession her mother and the U.S. State Department has said was forced and fabricated.

He was later sentenced to death.

The punishment was later overturned, but Hekmati was later convicted of "cooperating with hostile governments" and sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to a website set up by his supporters.

When Yusra Kauppila, friend of Hekmati’s and a fellow Marine, heard of Hekmati's arrest, she and 5 other fellow Marines began an online campaign known as “Free Amir.”

“We’ve been waiting four and a half years to finally hear the news and there were days we never thought we were going to get this news,” said Kauppila.

After 1600 days of captivity, Kauppila was overjoyed at the news of his release and hopes to one day soon see her friend and brother in arms.

“I just hope for his recovery and for healing," she said. “I just want him to know that he wasn’t forgotten.”

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