Marine Released in Prisoner Swap Sues Iran

     (CN) — Freed early this year, U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati sued Iran for “severe pain and suffering” in the more than four years he spent in captivity on false accusations of espionage and waging war against God.
     Hekmati had been held in what he described as Tehran’s “notoriously brutal Evin Prison” before becoming one of four U.S. citizens released on Jan. 17 this year, in exchange for seven Iranians.
     Spending 17 months of that time in a 1.5-by-1-meter solitary confinement cell, Hekmati reported experiencing “continuous physical abuse at the hands of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence,” according to a lawsuit he filed Monday in Washington, D.C. Federal Court.
     “The torture that Mr. Hekmati endured included being whipped at the bottom of his feet, struck by an electrical Taser to his kidney area, forced to stay in stress positions for hours at a time, and hit with batons,” his lawsuit states. “Prison guards threw water on his cell floor to prevent him from sleeping. A very bright light was kept on 24 hours a day to invoke sensory deprivation. Mr. Hekmati’s captors would force him to take lithium and other addictive pills and then stop giving him the pills to invoke withdrawal symptoms. He was denied proper medical care and suffered severe malnutrition.”
     When his ordeal ended, three other high-profile U.S. captives there saw their freedom, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini.
     President Barack Obama also pardoned seven men, including Khosraw Afghahi and Bahram Mechanic, who owned the Iran-based Faratel Corp. and its Houston-based sister company Smart Power Systems.
     Hekmati, however, says he is still living with the psychological scars of his Iranian imprisonment.
     “Since returning home, Mr. Hekmati has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and other lasting psychological damage from his captivity and torture,” the 11-page complaint states. “Mr. Hekmati is also jobless and suffering the financial effects of being robbed of four and a half years of income and the master’s degree he had intended to obtain before his imprisonment.”
     He says that he never hid his military service when he traveled to Iran for the first time on Aug. 14, 2011, to visit his grandmother and other relatives.
     Just two days before the end of his trip weeks later, Hekmati says that Iranian officials arrested him without warning before he tried to attend a family holiday celebration.
     Hekmati said that he buckled after months of physical and psychological torture into confessing to being a CIA spy, and broadcasting his statements on state television as “proof” of his crimes.
     “In January 2012 — five months after Mr. Hekmati’s arrest and imprisonment — Iran’s Revolutionary Court held a 15-minute trial behind closed doors on Mr. Hekmati’s ‘crimes,'” the 11-page complaint states. “Mr. Hekmati did not meet his court-appointed defense attorney until five minutes before trial.”
     After convicting Hekmati of espionage, “waging war against God and corrupting the earth,” the court initially dealt Hekmati its first death sentence meted out to a U.S. citizen since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, before an appellate court reduced the sentence, according to Monday’s lawsuit.
     In August 2013, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Hekmati’s detention arbitrary. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry called for his release.
     Hekmati sued the Iranian government for punitive damages, alleging four counts of violations of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the Torture Victim Protection Act, false imprisonment, emotional distress and assault and battery.
     Hekmati’s attorney, Scott Gilbert of the Washington-based firm Gilbert LLP, called his client’s treatment “utterly contemptible.”
     “Amir was arrested on phony charges, thrown into brutal solitary confinement in one of the world’s most inhumane prisons, and then subjected to prolonged physical and psychological abuse, including beatings, electric Taser-ing, sleep deprivation, and the forced ingestion of dangerous drugs,” Gilbert said in a statement. “Amir can never be adequately compensated for his suffering and the lasting impact that this has had, and will have, on the rest of his life. Our intention, with the filing of this lawsuit, is to attempt to provide at least some measure of justice for Amir and his family.”

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