Television and radio host and veteran Marine Montel Williams is throwing his weight – not to mention his personality and reach – into the campaign to free a fellow Marine veteran from a prison in Iran. imprisoned Amir Hekmati.
Iranian authorities have held Amir Hekmati, who served as an infantry rifleman and deployed to Iraq a veteran of the Iraq war and a former Marine, in captivity since arresting him during a trip to that country to visit relatives more than three years ago. Hekmati, who is The one-time sergeant is reportedly living in deplorable conditions, was charged with conspiring against Iran as a spy.
It's a charge he, his family and the U.S. government deny.
"He is being held because he served this country," Williams told Marine Corps Times. "He is being held because he fought in Iraq. He is being held because they are calling him a traitor to the Iranian people because he fought for our way of life."
Williams boasts prior experience in trying to get U.S. citizens out of custody in foreign lands. He publicly lent his support to veteran Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was imprisoned in Mexico.
Williams said getting imprisoned abroad is an issue all service members should be concerned about. There are countries Williams said he doesn't visit for that exact reason, Williams said.
"We leave no Marine behind. Period," he said. "I bought into the fact: That once a Marine, always a Marine. I bought into it in boot camp."
Supporters have fought to keep Hekmati's case alleged plight in the limelight, and recently got a boost as the government finalized a nuclear deal with Iran's top leadership. But many supporters say Hekmati and other Americans imprisoned being held there are being left adrift.
This is despite President Barack Obama last month calling for Hekmati's freedom.
Williams is not alone in his efforts. U.S. Rep. Daniel Kildee, D-Mich., (D-Michigan) again pushed lawmakers for Hekmati's freedom on the floor of the House of Representatives on April 14. Kildee, who represents the area where Hekmati's family lives, repeatedly has pressed federal officials to negotiate for his release.
Like other supporters of Hekmati, including Kildee, who set aside a seat for the veteran at this year's State of the Union Address, Williams encourages keeping the dialogue going. Iranian officials will respond to public pressure here and abroad, he said.
Active-duty and retired service members can do their part to help Hekmati by spreading the word about his case, he said. , active and retired, should keep the conversation going.
"Guys who wear uniforms: Remember [Hekmati] is being held because he wore our uniform," Williams said.