Translator Condemned to Death

by Translation Guy on January 23, 2012

January 9, Iran announced that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former United States Marine from Flint, Mich., convicted of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency, had been condemned to death. Hekmati, of Iranian descent, was arrested in August when he went to visit his grandmother in the Islamic Republic.

Hekmati, who served in the Marines for four years, completed a five-month tour in Iraq and took linguistics training in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, was carrying his military identification with him when arrested by Iranian authorities, in what looks like a setup by Iranian government officials eager for leverage against the Great Satan (USA).

Hekmati’s military background marked him as a person of interest to Iran. But it is his post-military translation career that may have sealed his fate. After leaving the Marines, Hekmati started his own translation company, Lucid Linguistics, specializing in Arabic, Persian, and “military-related” matters. “Our main goal is to assist organizations whose focus is on the current Global War on Terrorism and who are working to bridge the language barrier for our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” announced the site (now down), according to the New York Times.

Possibly even more intriguing to the Iranians was work done a few years later by Mr. Hekmati for Kuma Games, where Hekmati was instrumental in winning a $92,000 Defense Department contract to develop “an effective, cost-efficient, rapidly deployable and easily updatable language retention toolset for trainers and soldiers deployed around the world.”

Kuma is famous in Iran because of a game they published in 2005 that simulated an imaginary American military assault on the country. “Assault on Iran” simulated an attack on an Iranian nuclear installation. Hekmati did not work on that game, but was convicted for it anyway.

Hekmati’s resume reads like that of many other vets working in the translation industry, where he, “making a living at the intersection of the defense and industrial establishment through a string of contracting and consulting jobs.” according to Nathan Hodge at the WSJ.

It looks like Hekmati walked right into a trap. Before he visited Iran he checked in with the Iranian government to make sure there would be no problems. “Not only did the Iranian officials in Washington mislead Hekmati, but it seems that they alerted the authorities in Tehran, transforming the young man into the latest political pawn in the running conflict between Iran and the United States,” says Geneive Abdo of The Century Foundation.

The Iranian government has already posted his “confession” to a nefarious plot to brainwash the youth of the Middle East using video games, now on YouTube. But looks like the only plot Hekmati in involved in is as an unwilling hostage for Iranian spooks. Hopefully, they won’t bring the curtain down on this political theater production any time soon. Things do not look good for Amir Hekmati right now.



  1. Head Pimp says:

    Don’t the Iranians have anything better to do? How about just making the country better for its citizens? Helping out with neighboring countries? Why focus on so much hate?

  2. benkingery says:

    How can he be convicted of something he didn’t do? You would think it would be very straight forward to prove he didn’t have anything to do with the designing of the game. Did he even get an attorney?

    • Ken says:

      No attorney, no representation of any kind.

  3. rsconberg says:

    What kind of leverage can Iran look to gain from this? Sanctions won”t be lifted. They won’t give permission to build a weapon. They won’t pull out of the middle east. This guy is a pawn and he and his family are the only ones paying.

    • Ken says:

      This arrest shows Iranians that the government is fighting back against the covert campaign by alleged US-backed powers against the country’s nuclear interests.

  4. Maisie says:

    I always have mixed feelings about the middle east and other countries. I always wonder why the US won’t let anyone build a nuclear weapon, yet we can have as many as possible. But, I do see that they don’t exactly think clearly about things and, although I don’t agree with all of the things the US does, what Iran is doing with this guy is horrible.

    • Ken says:

      Their hostage-taking habits mark them as thugs in the eyes of many.

  5. So, is the US in a “cold war” with Iran now? I certainly it hope it doesn’t turn into a warmer war, because I don’t think they would be as easy to deal with as Iraq.

    • Ken says:

      Three carriers en route, and 15K boots on the ground in Kuwait. How cold is that?

  6. Bitsy says:

    Is this for real? I read all of the links that went along with your blog and I just can’t believe that in today’s world people can’t get a fair trial. I didn’t read anything though about what the US government was doing. This is a case where good translators are needed to help Hekmati.

  7. Susan Glass says:

    Wow, I heard about this last month, but I never really got the details. This guy is getting the raw deal from Iran. I hope that this blog, and other outlets keep his story fresh and not forgotten and hopefully there is a happy ending for him and his family.

  8. That guy is not getting out of this. I can’t imagine the US negotiating for his release. What a shame.

  9. I read about his arrest late last year. It didn’t surprise me to hear about it, however the death sentence did. Not that I would want anyone to be in an Iranian jail for any length of time, but hopefully they don’t execute him soon. Hopefully something will good will happen with time.

  10. Translation for the government probably has it’s dangers. Anything connected to the government or the middle east probably does. I hope he is okay after all of this, but I also hope others learn from this and realize that there is not safe trip over to the other side of the world.

  11. Tracy Long says:

    Can’t the Great Satan make a deal for this guy? Or would that make it look like he really is a spy? Nothing good is coming out of this one.

  12. Hekmati made a mistake going there. It may have been a trap, but there is now way I would have gone. He shoud just gone with a regular identification and told no one.

  13. Clara Bush says:

    Way too much going on over there. I don’t know who to believe. Who is the spy, who is the terrorist, who is the nuclear scientist, are they really tring to build a bomb? What we need is a good translator (Ken) to make sense of all of this. I’m not trying to make light of this guy’s situation, but it really boils down to a case of he said she said.

  14. I am born and bread USA. But, we have put ourselves in this situation with the foreign policy we have kept for the last 40 years. I don’t approve of everything we do, although the government thinks it’s justified. I do think that we need to eventually bite teh bullet and admit we have done some bad things over there and we need to make amends. We can’t be the bully anymore. Everyone else is growing up and willing to fight back.

  15. I would never have had millitary documents on me if I went to Iran. I probably would be sewing Canadian flags on my backpack before I went, eh.

  16. Jay Papasan says:

    Reading about these things always brings me back down to reality. I am happy that you keep this sort of thing fresh and not forgotten. Keep it up. I am always happy to read.

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