Marine renouncing Iranian citizenship hopes to be released from prison, come home

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Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona. (Source: 3TV) Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona. (Source: 3TV)
Hekmati's father was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. (Source: 3TV) Hekmati's father was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. (Source: 3TV)
Hekmati originally was sentenced to death. That has since been changed to 10 years in prison. (Source: 3TV) Hekmati originally was sentenced to death. That has since been changed to 10 years in prison. (Source: 3TV)
Hekmati hopes Iran will be forced to deport him. (Source: 3TV) Hekmati hopes Iran will be forced to deport him. (Source: 3TV)
Hekmati lef the U.S. to visit his grandmother and extended family nearly four years ago. (Source: 3TV) Hekmati lef the U.S. to visit his grandmother and extended family nearly four years ago. (Source: 3TV)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

An Arizona-born Marine held captive in Iran is renouncing his Iranian citizenship in hopes of forcing officials in that country to deport him back to the United States.

Amir Hekmati is a dual citizen - American and Iranian. But he has been a prisoner in Iran ever since traveling to see his grandmother and extended family in the Middle East nearly four years ago.

"Imagine going there to meet your family for two weeks and then being abducted and taken to prison, accused of being a spy and given a death sentence," said Hekmati's sister, Sarah Hekmati.

Hekmati's death sentence was eventually changed to a 10-year prison term.

But speaking from her home in Michigan, Sarah Hekmati said her brother is innocent of the spy charges. She believed Hekmati, a Marine who joined the military after 9/11, is being held for political purposes.

"What crime are they talking about? Serving in the U.S. military? If that's the crime who do we discuss this with?" Sarah Hekmati asked. "He's an innocent man being held in prison. He hasn't even had access to his attorney. He's never met his attorney."

Amir Hekmati was born is Arizona and spent part of his childhood in Flagstaff before moving to Michigan. Because both of his parents are Iranian citizens he's also a citizen of that country.

But he and his family believe that is working against him as a prisoner in Iran. By renouncing his Iranian citizenship and becoming solely American, he hopes to force the hand of officials dealing with U.S. diplomats working for his release.

“They don't recognize dual citizenship, and they've been using the fact that he's Iranian against him, in essence, to be able to not apply American law to his case,” Sarah Hekmati said.

And in the case of Hekmati and his family, time is not on their side.

"Two years ago my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. The doctors determined he may not have much time to live," Sarah Hekmati said. "It's very devastating. He obviously wants to be with us and go through this process. He worries he may never see his dad; his father worries he may never see his son again."

Sarah Hekmati said President Barack Obama has discussed her brother's release with Iranian officials. She hopes upcoming U.S. - Iran nuclear discussions will also be a chance to re-open the dialog about returning her brother and other Americans held prisoner in Iran.

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