- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A former U.S. Marine who was jailed in Iran for more than four years until his January release said Memorial Day is “bittersweet” during his Thursday visit to the Michigan state Senate for memorial services.

Amir Hekmati did not directly mention his time in an Iranian prison on Thursday.

“It’s always a bittersweet day,” Hekmati said of Memorial Day. He called it “sweet because you remember having taken part in our nation’s defense, but bitter because of the sacrifices that were made, and some of my fellow Marines that weren’t here today.”

The 32-year-old Flint, Michigan, resident was jailed in 2011, charged with espionage and sentenced to death in 2012. The death sentence was later overturned by Iran’s supreme court and he was instead given a 10-year sentence before his release in a prisoner-swap deal.

Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan, where his family still lives in the Flint area. His family has said he was subjected to physical and mental torture, including long periods of solitary confinement in a small cell. He spoke to media about his ordeal in January but did not elaborate further on conditions in the prison.

Earlier this month, Hekmati filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. against the Iranian government alleging that he was “falsely imprisoned and tortured for a period of four and a half years.”

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 that he was forced to ingest lithium and other addictive pills which were then withheld to induce withdrawal symptoms, among other abuses described.

Hekmati was the guest of Flint Democratic Sen. Jim Ananich during the Senate’s annual Memorial Day service, which Hekmati said is the first he has attended in years.

Ananich’s office said Hekmati was visiting his grandmother in Iran when he was arrested.

“His presence is an inspiration and testament to the American spirit and the vigilance of thousands of people across the country who would not let him be forgotten,” Ananich said in a statement.

Hekmati told reporters his visit to the state Senate was “a very special day for me” and said he’s “just happy to be home and back in my home state of Michigan (with) people that have supported me and cared for me.”

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