Efforts Intensify To Save Game Developer Sentenced To Death In Iran

A day after news broke that US citizen and former game developer Amir Hekmati was sentenced to death by the Iranian government, a glimmer of hope emerged that the 28-eight-year old's life might be spared.

"The news is not positive, but we try to reassure [his family] that it is not over," Pierre Prosper a former diplomat who is now working with Hekmati's family to secure the American's release from the Iranian regime, told CNN. "We will engage with the government and we hope that they will show compassion."

Prosper is a former war crimes prosecutor who worked in the administration of President George W. Bush and helped secure the release in 2010 of an American businessman who had been held for two years by the Iranian authorities.

Hekmati's case is severe. He has been accused by the Iranians of working for the CIA and spying on their country and has been sentenced to death. In December, Hekmati appeared on Iranian TV to "confess" these crimes, though Hekmati's family and the US government deny the confession was true and say Hekmati was no spy.

"The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons," a State Department spokesperson told reporters yesterday.

The Iranians are allowing for the possibility that the death sentence won't be carried out. They say Hekmati has 20 days to appeal his sentence. "If the sentence is appealed, then the Court of Appeals will hear the case. If not, then the sentence is final," Iranian judiciary spokesman Mohseni Ejeie said, as quoted by CNN through the country's semi-official Iranian Student News Agency.

Hekmati's mother has pleaded for mercy in a letter posted on the FreeAmir website. "We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time."

Hekmati's supporters say he was not given a fair trial. "This was literally a half-day trial," he told CNN. "He was in detention only for a few months, and the verdict came within weeks. We also are troubled by the fact there's been no transparency, so it is really hard to see what happened."

Hekmati's supposed confession included the claim that Kuma Games, for which he appears to have worked some time in the last several years, was funded by the CIA and intended to influence public opinion in the Middle East. Kuma has not acknowledged that Hekmati worked for them, but an online filing indicates that he was part of a Kuma team that received a $US96,000 grant by the US Department of Defense to develop a language training game. An Iranian newspaper previously published accusations that Kuma, which specialises in ripped-from-the-headlines war games was a US government propaganda front, an assertion Kuma boss Keith Halper has denied.

Relations between the US and Iran are the worst they've been in years, with America and its allies applying increasingly tough economic pressure on a country they believe intends to weaponise its nuclear energy program. Iran has remained defiant, saying it's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Iran has repeatedly declined to cooperate with international inspectors and began enriching uranium at a second site this past weekend, expanding its nuclear ambitions.

Hekmati's fate could be used as a bargaining chip regarding Iran's nuclear program and the sanctions against the nation. Prosper and Hekmati's family, however, wants to de-politicize the proces and simply free a man they say was doing nothing more than visiting relatives in Iran.

Death row American's lawyer calls for compassion from Iran [CNN]

Top photo: Amir Hekmati with his niece, before his incarceration/FreeAmir website


    Man, Iran is really pushing against the world lately; wonder if they'll like it when the world pushes back.

      Really? Iran is pushing against the world?

      I disagree with the death penalty for any crime but isn't this guy an American citizen sent over to Iran to spy on them?

      I dislike Iran quite a bit and am not trying to justify any sort of capital punishment but if you come to my house without my permission, to quote Peter Russell "Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad."

        There's nothing to say that the man received a fair trial. I don't know if you remember, but last year, 3 American hitchhikers imprisoned by Iranian authorities were released after claims they had been spying.

        Poor bastards just took a few steps further North than they should have and they got a lengthy, unjustified jail term for their trouble.

          I remember it well.

          I also remember the fact that for the last few years there have been threats of America and Israel wishing to bomb Iran.

          I'd be a little edgy when 3 American kids show up on my door step and claim it was an accident as well.

            That dear sir is called propaganda.

            And it works both ways.

            US wants to bomb Iran and we must defend ourselves!
            Iran is going to weaponise Nukes we need to defend ourselves!

            The only difference is the western world can apply economic pressure. Iran has to resort to tactics such as "catching spies and showing them in public" ala Cold War days.

            Propaganda is only as useful as how much the populace is willing to believe in it and how much the heads of state can spin it w/o actually deluding themselves to believing it.

    I propose a rescue mission. Anyone here a pilot? =/

    makes you wonder why people would even design propaganda against their home country. Sure, an Australian designing propaganda games against the commonwealth wouldnt be punished by death, but by doing so aren't you already inviting trouble? Especially in a country like Iran... It seems this guy had it coming all along.

    @ Alien:

    "Amir, a natural born American citizen"

    Clue there as to which is home country is.

    I've played enough Call Of Duty to know how this ends, LETS GO!

    Stay classy, Iran.

    Jokes aside though, hope they manage to get him out of that hellhole.

    Shit, I hope he is okay. Didn't we hear about this a couple of months ago? Something about this company was on Kotaku, I remember..

    note to self, when a govenment has "use extreme caution" as its trazel advise to a country, consider travelling to a different country

    “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons”

    doesn't America do this to others all the time?

      Everyone makes mistakes.. over and over again....

      Last I checked they don't often sentence those people to death.

    Game Over

    "It seems this guy had it coming all along."

    Hey what? Get a clue.

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