American game developer freed from Iranian prison after over 4 years of captivity
After over 4 years of captivity in Iran, Amir Hekmati - a former U.S. Marine and video game developer - has finally been released. The Iranian-American man was in the process of serving a 10-year prison term that had been reduced from a death sentence -- this after being charged of espionage against Iran. His family -- as well as the U.S. government -- had long denied Hekmati's involvement in espionage operations, and constantly filed pleas for his release. After such a long struggle, as of January 16th, 2016, Amir is now a free man according to an Iranian news report.
Hekmati was once a consultant for the video game company Kuma Reality Games, a New York company that is best known for first-person shooter apps for Android and iPhone. However, in the December of 2011, a video was released where Amir Hekmati was shown "confessing" that Kuma Reality Games was in fact a propaganda wing of the U.S. government. Amir had already been arrested in the August of that year by Iranian authorities, while his family maintained that his visit to the country was simply to visit is grandparents.
In reality, the accusations against Amir could not be further from the truth. According to the contract made with Kuma Reality Games in 2009, Amir's team simply developed a software application to aid U.S. soldiers in language retention. The $96,000 grant had nothing to do with espionage or Iran at all, and the description of the work matches up to the claims of his family and the U.S. government.
As of Thursday, January 14th, 2016, Amir had been admitted to an Iranian hospital to receive treatment for a lymph node issue that likely developed during his imprisonment.
According to the aforementioned Iranian news account, Hekmati is part of a swap deal that involves three other Iranian-Americans in exchange for six imprisoned Iranian-Americans currently being held for sanctions-related issues. One of the exchanged persons is Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, who Iran had also accused of being a spy despite denials by himself and his employer.