The former video game developer and United States Marine who was released by Iran in January is now suing the country, claiming he was tortured while in captivity. Amir Hekmati said in a lawsuit filed this week that he was viciously tortured–physically and emotionally–during the four-and-a-half years that the Iranian government held him. Hekmati had been in prison since 2011, after he was arrested in Iran on charges of espionage.
The Marine Corps Times reports that Hekmati was held in solitary confinement for the first 17 months of his sentence. It was at this time that he faced physical torture in the form of whippings to the bottoms of his feet and beatings with a baton. He also claims he was shot with a taser gun in the kidney area. In the lawsuit, Hekmati says his captors put water on his floor and kept the lights on for 24 hours a day to bring on sensory deprivation.
The torture went further still, he said.
“Mr. Hekmati’s captors would force him to take lithium and other addictive pills and then stop giving him the pills to invoke withdrawal symptoms,” reads a line from the lawsuit. “He was denied proper medical care and suffered severe malnutrition.”
Hekmati also claims he was mentally tortured. According to the lawsuit, he was told his sister was involved in a serious car crash and that he could only speak with his family if he admitted to being a CIA spy.
In December 2011, the lawsuit says Hekmati was moved to a hotel and was told he would be released if he agreed to appear on an “internal training video.” At first, Hekmati said no, but later agreed when he was faced with the alternative of returning to solitary confinement. This video was then reportedly broadcast on state TV as a means to provide proof that Hekmati was an agent working for the US. Not only that, but Hekmati was put back into solitary confinement after this, according to the lawsuit.
He was later sentenced to death, but this was later overturned, receiving a 10-year prison term instead.
At another time during his imprisonment, Hekmati was moved to a different cell where repotedly “his conditions were even more brutal.”
“His cell was infested with rats, which he had to kill himself using a broomstick. His skin was eaten by lice, fleas, and bed bugs. He suffered from recurring lung infections and constant stomach problems due to malnutrition,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit does not mention how much money Hekmati is suing for, and it remains to be seen if it will go forward. According to The Marine Corps Times, Iran has “sovereign immunity” in some cases, which limits its potential to be sued. Hekmati’s lawyer, Scott Gilbert, said the former solider and game developer is now “trying to put his life back together as best he can.”
Head to The Marine Corps. Times to learn more.
Hekmati, along with multiple other Iranian-Americans, including The Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian, were released in January as part of a US/Iran prisoner exchange.
Hekmati’s ordeal began in August 2011, after the game designer was arrested in Iran on charges of espionage while reportedly visiting his family there. Iran apparently based its charges on Hekmati’s work at Kuma Games, which it claimed served as a propaganda tool commissioned by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the CIA.
As part of his original conviction, Hekmati purportedly confessed to Iran’s charges. The New York Times reported in 2012 that Iran has a history of arresting US citizens, coercing confessions from them, handing out harsh sentences, and then freeing them after sizable bail payments.