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Family: Iran detainee needs better legal help

January 4, 2012

DETROIT (AP) — The family of an Iranian-American detained in Iran for four months on espionage charges said Wednesday he’s not getting adequate legal representation.

The family of Amir Hekmati said in a statement that his “only advocate in Iran is a government-appointed lawyer who he first met on the day of his trial.”

“We have struggled to provide Amir with an attorney in Iran,” the family wrote in the statement. “We have sought to hire at least 10 different attorneys in Tehran to no avail.”

Hekmati’s family said the former U.S. military translator was visiting his grandmothers. Iranian prosecutors say Hekmati was working for the CIA and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hekmati, 28, was born in Arizona and graduated from a Michigan high school. His father Ali is a professor at a community college in Flint, Michigan.

The State Department has called for Hekmati’s release, and spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington that the department continues to wait for Iranian authorities to grant Swiss diplomats access to him in prison. The Swiss government represents U.S. interests in Iran because the two countries don’t have diplomatic relations.

Nuland said Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian national, and “the Iranian government has historically not recognized our rights to access. ”

“That doesn’t change the fact that we will keep asking for it,” she said.

Iran charges that as a U.S. Marine, Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission.

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