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Sister: American held in Iran gets books, exercise

July 12, 2013

DETROIT (AP) — An ex-Marine held in Iran for nearly two years is faring much better these days — meeting with family members, exercising and being given access to books, his sister said Friday.

Sarah Hekmati told The Associated Press on Friday that she and other members of Amir Hekmati’s family “feel really optimistic” as a result of the recent developments, which also include positive conversations they have had with his lawyer.

Amir Hekmati’s family says he went to Iran in 2011 to visit his grandmothers. Iran, however, accused Hekmati of spying, and he was sentenced to death. That sentenced later was overturned.

U.S. officials have denied the spying charge.

Hekmati, 29, was born and raised in the U.S., where his parents and sister still live. He carries U.S. and Iranian passports.

Sarah Hekmati said an uncle and aunt who visited her brother report he has gained weight and no longer appears gaunt as he did when he previously was held in solitary confinement.

These days, Amir Hekmati is permitted to interact with his fellow inmates and is being given access to language classes, where is working to improve his Farsi, his sister said.

Letters to family, including two addressed to his parents that recently were received, are required to be written in that language, said Sarah Hekmati, who described the writings as “guarded.”

“He knows they’re being screened,” but he’s able to express his love for his family, she said.

In the recent letters, Amir Hekmati urged his father — who is suffering from cancer — to “please quit smoking” and improve his diet, and he told his mother that he “is living a very healthy life here.”

“However much difficulty I endure from this situation, my thoughts of you give me the strength and patience that I need to survive another day,” he wrote to his mother, signing off with “I love you, Amir.”

The letters were translated from Farsi into English and shared with the AP.

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