Jailed American in Iran Must Be Freed, Say Family at Vienna Nuke Talks

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Behnaz Hekmati sits with her husband Ali Hekmati as they talk about their son former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who is being detained in Iran accused of being a CIA spy, May 10. 2013.Credit: AP

REUTERS - Relatives of a U.S. citizen jailed by Iran on spying charges in 2011 attended a nuclear summit in Vienna to call for his release.

Amir Hekmati, a 31-year-old Iranian-American, was arrested by Iranian authorities and convicted of espionage, a charge his relatives and the United States deny.

An initial death sentence was commuted to a 10-year prison term. This was appealed last November, but the case has stagnated since then, family members say.

"We want to ... put pressure on these talks and to make sure that Amir has to be a priority," the prisoner's sister, Sarah Hekmati, told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting in Vienna.
World powers are negotiating a possible end to a 12-year standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.

U.S. President Barack Obama in March urged Iran's government to release Hekmati and two other detained Americans - Saeed Abedini and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian - and to help find Robert Levinson, an American who disappeared in Iran eight years ago.

Iran and the United States have no direct diplomatic relations, hampering efforts to free the detainees. Ties were cut following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"Diplomacy, even if there is a (nuclear) deal, will be seriously affected if they're not released. We're not political, but that's a fact," said Ramy Kurdi, Hekmati's brother-in-law.

Hekmati served as an infantryman, language and cultural adviser and Arabic and Persian linguist in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005, performing some of his service in Iraq.

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