Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Voter Guide

Seat At State Of The Union Reserved For Imprisoned Camp Pendleton Marine Veteran

As President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, a seat will be empty in the House chamber. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, reserved the chair for Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, who has been held in an Iranian prison for more than three years.

Hekmati's family lives in Michigan, and Kildee represents them in Congress. Kildee told the Marine Corps Times he wants to bring more awareness to Hekmati's imprisonment:

"As long as Amir's case stays in conversation … it creates the opportunity for Iran to make a gesture of a humanitarian nature that demonstrates that they're serious, that they actually do want to join the global community as a legitimate state we can deal with and have a relations with."

As Home Post reported earlier this week, Hekmati was born in Arizona, raised in Michigan, and holds duel United States-Iran citizenship.

He enlisted in the Marines in 2001, and did his basic training at Camp Pendleton.

Hekmati's Kafkaesque nightmare began in August 2011, when he traveled to Iran to visit his grandmothers. Government officials arrested him and accused of spying for the CIA.

An Iranian revolutionary court then secretly tried, convicted, and sentenced him to death for “practical collaboration with the American government."

That verdict was later overturned, and Hekmati was tried again and once again found guilty. The court sentenced Hekmati to 10 years in prison.

Election 2020 news coverage


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.