Family 'Agonizing' Over Fate of U.S. 'Spy' Facing Death Penalty in Iran

Former Marine Amir Hekmati "defenseless" during spy trial.

January 04, 2012, 9:38 AM

Jan. 4, 2012 — -- The family of former U.S. Marine and accused spy Amir Hekmati said that as Hekmati soon could face the death penalty at the hands of an Iranian court, the Iranian government has not given him a fair trial and has refused to respond to repeated, desperate pleas for answers.

"Since his detention in August 2011 Amir's mother and family have made every conceivable effort to try to cooperate constructively with the Iranian government on the matter. Unfortunately our effort has been met with general silence and no reciprocity," the family said in a statement late Tuesday. "Our family has been forced to sit idly as Amir awaits an uncertain fate, defenseless behind closed doors."

In the statement, the family said they have tried to hire at least 10 different lawyers to represent Hekmati, but he is only being represented by a government-appointed lawyer who did not meet Hekmati until the first day of his trial. The family also says they have tried to contact at least five different high officials in the Iranian government, including Iran's president and the country's representatives in the U.S., but "[their] pleas for basic human rights and due process for Amir have been unanswered."

The American government also requested consular access to Hekmati in December through its Swiss representatives in Iran but Iran refused, according to the U.S. State Department. Hekmati could face the death penalty if convicted, according to several Iranian news outlets.

Iran's Fars News Agency reported Tuesday that major court proceedings had ended and Hekmati's lawyer would provide "his last defense" before a verdict was reached. According to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency, in court Hekmati "confessed to his crimes but claimed he had been deceived and had no intention of taking action against the country."

Hekmati, an Arizona-born Iranian-American who served the U.S. Marines as a rifleman from 2001 to 2005, was arrested while visiting his extended family, including two elderly grandmothers, in Tehran on Aug. 29, 2011, according to the family. The family said they were urged by the Iranian government to keep quiet about his arrest with the promise of later release, but then in December, Hekmati was shown on Iranian television allegedly confessing to being an undercover agent of the Central Intelligence Agency on a mission to infiltrate the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

"It was their [the CIA's] plan to first burn some useful information, give it to them [the Iranians] and let Iran's Intelligence Ministry think that this is good material," Hekmati says calmly in the video.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News shortly after the broadcast, Hekmati's father strongly denied his son was a spy and said the confession was forced.

"My son is no spy. He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," Hekmati said. "These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."

READ Exclusive: Father of American 'Spy' Calls Iran Claims 'Bunch of Lies'

Family: 'We Will Not Stop Hoping and Praying for Justice'

In the Iranian broadcast, Hekmati was described as having been trained in military intelligence for 10 years by the U.S. Army before being sent in country on his secret mission to become a double agent for the CIA. But military service records provided to ABC News showed Hekmati is an ex-Marine, was never in the Army and never had any military intelligence training. He spoke Arabic and may have helped translate for his Marine unit, but left service in 2005 as a rifleman.

The elder Hekmati said his son worked for a security contractor after his Marine service, but insisted he never had intelligence training there either. The Associated Press reported in December Hekmati briefly worked for the major security contractor BAE Systems before going to work for another contractor in Qatar before his arrest.

READ: American Held By Iran as CIA 'Spy' Had No Military Intel Training

"We've seen this story before with the Iranian regime falsely accusing people of being spies and then holding the innocent foreigners for political reasons," State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in December. In September, the Iranian government released the last two of three American hikers detained there for two years on accusations of espionage.

Hekmati's mother, father, two sisters and brother all live in the U.S.

"Every waking moment, our family is agonizing over Amir's fate," the family's statement says. "We continue to hope, struggling to reach out to Iran and abroad for Amir's freedom... to the ones who have hearts, and the ones who can hear. We will not stop hoping and praying for justice, for peaceful dialogue with Iran, and for Amir's safe return home."

A representative at the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., declined to comment for this report and referred ABC News to his colleagues in New York. Representatives at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately return requests for comment.

Hekmati's family has set up a website in Amir's name, called

ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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