A Mt. Pleasant man has turned his kitchen into a workshop to make T-shirts to raise awareness about his friend who has been sentenced to death in Iran for espionage.
Amir Mirzayee Hekmati was sentenced to death by the 15th Tehran Revolutionary Court for alledged cooperation with an enemy government, spying on behalf of the CIA, and attempting to accuse the Iranian government of supporting terrorism.
Now, Hekmati's friend and former colleague Dave Noriega, wants to bring his friend home.
"It sparked a big fire in all of us to do something and get active," Noriega said. "We want to do something to let people know."
Noriega is making T-shirts that say "Free Amir" and using funds from them to help pay Hetmaki's legal fees. He started Monday after hearing the news his friend was sentenced to death.
Hetmaki's trial began in late December when already strained US-Iran relations worsened over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. The US believes that the nuclear program is aimed at producing a viable nuclear weapon, while Iran insists the program is a peaceful energy scheme.
"It really hits and it really has been a sock in the stomach for everybody," Noriega said. "Takes your breath away."
Noriega and Hetmaki attended defense-language school together in California. Both later served in Iraq. Noriega says hearing his friend may be put to death made him put his own life on hold.
Noriega is putting hours into making shirts to raise awareness about Hetmaki's situation. The Arizona native has been in an Iranian prison since August. Now a lawyer is fighting for his life, something quite difficult to do in Iran, according to a human rights group.
"Iran executes more people per capita than any other country. We want people to know there is no due process there, and we should hold Iran to the standards that everyone believes in. Access to a lawyer and a fair trial."
"Just like with all other services, the Marine Corps is full of brotherhood and you never leave anyone behind. Ever," Noriega said.
Noriega hopes his T-shirts will be walking advertisements with a simple message to help bring his friend home.
For more information on how you can help bring Hetmaki home, visit FreeAmir.org.