Iran Releases Former Game Developer Once Sentenced to Death

Amir Hekmati, who had been imprisoned since 2011, has been released.


[UPDATE] GameSpot sister site CBS News has now confirmed with US officials that Amir Hekmati has been released as part of a prisoner exchange. Hekmati, along with the other Iranian-Americans released today, will be flown from Iran to Switzerland and then brought to a US military base in Landstuhl, Germany, where medical treatment will be available. For more on this story, read the full CBS News report.

The original story is below.

As part of a prisoner swap with the United States, Iran has released four Iranian-American prisoners, including a former video game developer who was at one time sentenced to death by an Iranian court. This is according to The New York Times and an Iranian news report published on Saturday.

Amir Hekmati. Image Credit: Reuters.
Amir Hekmati. Image Credit: Reuters.

The game developer in question, 32-year-old Amir Hekmati, was convicted of spying and creating propaganda material while serving as a designer at wargame studio Kuma Games. His death sentence was later overturned, reportedly getting a 10-year jail sentence instead. He had been in prison since 2011.

Other Iranian-American prisoners released today included The Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian and Saeed Abedini, a pastor. The New York Times reports that the Iranian news stories don't make it immediately clear who the fourth was.

The release of Hekmati and the others comes after more than a year of secret negotiations between the US and Iran, CNN reported.

Reports from Iranian news outlets say the US released seven Iranians, though their identities were not immediately available. This prisoner exchange was apparently related to the recent nuclear deal with Iran, "but only loosely." For more on this story, check out the full New York Times report.

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 reportedly 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.

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