DETROIT — Iran must pay $63.5 million to a former U.S. Marine who was jailed in that country for more than four years, according to a ruling by a U.S. judge announced Monday.
Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday granted Amir Hekmati’s motion for a default judgment after Iran failed to respond to the complaint. Hekmati, who was released in January 2016 as part of a prisoner exchange, alleged he was falsely imprisoned and tortured.
It’s unclear if Hekmati will get any of the money, which consists of economic and punitive damages as well as those for “pain and suffering” during and after imprisonment.
An email sent Monday by The Associated Press seeking comment from Hekmati’s family was not returned. Hekmati’s attorney Scott Gilbert said in a statement they are pleased with the decision, and “will do everything in our power to ensure that Amir’s claim is paid in full.”
Hekmati, who has said he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with his ailing grandmother, was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. A death sentence was later overturned by Iran’s supreme court and he was instead given a 10-year sentence before his release.
Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. His family has lived in the Flint area.
The lawsuit alleges that Hekmati was whipped at the bottom of his feet, electrocuted in the kidneys with a Taser, forced to stay “in stress positions for hours at a time, and hit with batons.” It says he had “virtually no human contact for 17 months,” and alleges he was forced to ingest lithium and other addictive pills which were then withheld to induce withdrawal symptoms, among other abuses described.
A court document filed Friday said Hekmati “continued to suffer from his detention” after his release and return to the U.S. It shows that he has been evaluated “in relationship to the psychiatric effects of his imprisonment,” but details about a diagnosis and his overall condition were redacted.
Iran freed Hekmati, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans in exchange for pardons or charges being dropped against seven Iranians. That deal also saw the U.S. make a $400 million cash delivery to Iran.