(NEW YORK) — The father of a former Marine being held in Iran on espionage charges said he recently underwent surgery for a brain tumor and told ABC News he feared may not get to see his son again.
Following a stroke last week, Ali Hekmati, father of Arizona-born Amir Hekmati, was admitted to a Michigan hospital where doctors discovered “a hemorrhage in his brain that appears to be the result of an underlying mass,” according to a letter written by Hekmati’s neurosurgeon and provided to ABC News.
Hekmati’s family said the elder Hekmati had surgery for the tumor Wednesday and the family is still awaiting the results of post-surgery tests. As he was recovering in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, Ali Hekmati told ABC News by phone late Friday that he was terrified he would never see his son again.
“I was praying that I would live to get to see my son,” he said in a slightly sluggish voice. “But with the grace of God I survived. It is imperative that I get to see my son. I might even die.”
“Send him home to comfort me, to comfort his mother,” Ali Hekmati said, addressing the Iranian government.
Amir Hekmati, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was arrested in Iran in August 2011 after he traveled to the Middle East country to visit two grandmothers, his family said. In December, Hekmati appeared on an Iranian television station where he “confessed” to being a spy sent by the CIA to infiltrate Iranian intelligence. As part of their case against the 29-year-old, the Iranian program claimed Hekmati had been a soldier in the U.S. Army.
According to military records provided to ABC News, Hekmati was a Marine, not a soldier, and never received any military intelligence training. After leaving the service in 2005, Hekmati reportedly worked for a private security firm. The CIA declined to comment on the case in December but weeks later the State Department said that claims that Hekmati “either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue.”
In an exclusive interview days after Amir Hekmati’s appearance on Iranian television, Ali Hekmati told ABC News the allegations against his son were “a bunch of lies.”
“My son is no spy. He is innocent. He’s a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man,” Ali Hekmati said. “These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies.”
Despite the U.S. government’s and Hekmati’s family’s insistence of innocence, Iran sentenced Amir Hekmati to death in January, only to order a retrial two months later. A family member told ABC News that they haven’t been able to contact Hekmati since his mother was allowed a short visit in mid-February and said that recently there’s been “no progress” on the case.
On the one-year anniversary of Hekmati’s detention, the State Department released a statement saying it was “relieved” at the overturned death sentence, but said Hekmati “has spent a year in prison on charges that are categorically false, and he endured a closed-door trial with little regard for fairness and transparency.”
The elder Hekmati’s stroke came just days ahead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled speech at the United Nations in New York Wednesday.
“He hasn’t done anything,” Ali Hekmati said. “Bring him home. Bring him home.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Selena Larson and Samuel Burke, CNN
Ivaylo Vezenkov, CNN