FLINT, Mich. (AP) — The mother of a former U.S. Marine who has been held in Iran for two years on spying charges on Thursday released the contents of a letter she sent to him.
Behnaz Hekmati told her son Amir that the two years apart "is almost too much for a mother to endure, but I am trying to be as strong as you. I look at your picture every day and long to hug my eldest son. "
The Flint-area woman said she and other family members in Michigan "will continue to do everything to bring you home. Two years is too long; it is time to bring you home."
Amir Hekmati, 30, has been detained in Iran on what the U.S. says are false espionage charges. Authorities arrested him while he was visiting his grandmothers.
The State Department on Wednesday repeated its call for Tehran to release Hekmati and two other Americans. It said the U.S. requested assistance from new President Hasan Rouhani — viewed as more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Previous requests made to Ahmadinejad used slightly harsher rhetoric.
The other U.S. citizens held in Iran are Robert Levinson and Saeed Abedini.
"President Rouhani has shared in his speeches and interviews over the past few months his hope and vision to improve the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran's relationship with the world," the statement said in the latest plea for the release of the three.
Levinson, a husband and father of seven, went missing from Kish Island in Iran in March 2007.
Abedini has been detained since September 2012. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs and reportedly has suffered physical abuse in Iranian detention.
Hekmati was born in Arizona and grew up in Michigan. He carries U.S. and Iranian passports.
Iran accused Hekmati of being a CIA spy, then tried, convicted and sentenced him to death. Iran's Supreme Court ordered a retrial last year, but he remains imprisoned.
His fortunes have improved somewhat in recent months. He was transferred earlier this year to a less-restrictive environment after 16 months of solitary confinement and authorities permitted family members in Iran to visit him.
"With the second year of your sentence coming to pass, take comfort in my words. We are close," his mother wrote him. "There are many people standing behind you."