An American Muslim group has appealed to Iran's supreme leader to show clemency for an ex-US military translator with dual citizenship condemned to death on accusations of being a CIA spy.
A letter on Tuesday from the Council on American-Islamic Relations asks Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to spare the life of Amir Hekmati.
The 28-year-old ex-Marine was born in Arizona and attended high school in Michigan. His Iran-born father is a professor at Mott Community College in Flint and has said his son is not a spy. Hekmati's family has said he was in Iran to visit his grandmothers.
"It is our hope that the Iranian government will offer the same mercy and compassion to Hekmati as it recently offered to other Americans charged with similar offenses, including an Iranian-American journalist and three American hikers," the council's Michigan executive director, Dawud Walid, wrote in the letter to Khamanei.
"We respectfully request that you spare the life of ... Hekmati, grant him clemency and facilitate his immediate release, allowing him to return home and reunite with his family," the letter said.
Walid said members of his group will travel to Iran if that would help obtain freedom for Hekmati.
"We're hopeful that Hekmati will be granted some clemency," Walid said. "If the Iranians are willing to talk regarding releasing Hekmati, then we're willing to fly to Tehran if need be."
Iranian authorities said that Hekmati received special training and served at US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before traveling to Iran on an intelligence mission. A court convicted him of belonging to the CIA and trying to incriminate Iran for involvement in terrorism.
The US denied the accusations. The State Department called them a "complete fabrication," and White House spokesman Tommy Vietor added that "allegations that Hekmati either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false."
The Marine Corps said Hekmati served between 2001 and 2005, including a deployment to Iraq in 2004 and a stint at the military language institute in Monterey, Calif.