Amir Hekmati, the former U.S. Marine and one-time game developer, has been freed from an Iranian prison after more than four years in captivity, according to an Iranian news report.
Hekmati was serving a 10-year prison term, reduced form a death sentence, related to charges of espionage against Iran. His family and the U.S. government had long denied that he was a spy and have repeatedly pleaded for his release.
Hekmati had worked as a consultant for the video game company Kuma Reality Games, a New York based outfit that specialised in making playable versions of real military events. In a December 2011 "confession" aired on Iranian state TV, Hekmati said that Kuma was acting as a propaganda wing of the U.S. government.
According to an online U.S. government filing, back in 2009 Hekmati did indeed work for Kuma, which received a $US96,000 ($140,144) grant from the U.S. Department of Defence for Hekmati to help develop a language-learning and retention program for soldiers. There was nothing spy-like or nefarious in the description of the work.
According to the Iranian news account, Hekmati is one of four Iranian-Americans being released from prison in Iran today in exchange for six imprisoned Iranian-Americans held for sanctions-related issues. The freed Americans are set to include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who Iran had accused of being a spy despite vehement denials from himself and his employer.
Today is the first day of implementation of the multi-national nuclear deal brokered in 2015 to lift global economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.