Hekmati credits surviving Iranian prison torture to his Marine Corps training and experience

As part of a prisoner exchange– Marine vet Amir Hekmati was released Saturday along with minister Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and another American, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. Washington granted clemency to seven Iranians and withdrew arrest warrants for 14 others, as part of the deal.

Hekmati is expected to arrive back home in Flint, Michigan later today.

He’s told multiple media outlets that he will have a lot more to say about his four years in an Iranian prison, but for now he’s revealing very little. Amir did say he feels “born again” now that he has his freedom back.

“I feel really lucky,” he said. “I feel alive for the first time.”

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 video frame grab image made from the Iranian broadcaster IRIB TV, U.S. citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, accused by Iran of spying for the CIA, sits in Tehran's revolutionary court, in Iran. Iran state television has reported that the government has released several dual-national prisoners. The Associated Press has confirmed that three of them were Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini. (AP Photo/IRIB, File) IRAN OUT TV OUT
FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 video frame grab image made from the Iranian broadcaster IRIB TV, U.S. citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, accused by Iran of spying for the CIA, sits in Tehran’s revolutionary court, in Iran. Iran state television has reported that the government has released several dual-national prisoners. The Associated Press has confirmed that three of them were Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini. (AP Photo/IRIB, File) IRAN OUT TV OUT

Amir says up until the moment he and the others left Iranian airspace, he was very nervous that the deal would not actually go through. As soon as they were certain the plane was really headed home, the elated group broke out some bubbly.

Amir’s family members have said that he was tortured and drugged by prison officials and was kept in solitary confinement most of the time. His sister said he endured physical and psychological torture and in his first year, was kept in a cell so small he couldn’t even extend his legs.

At one point, the Iranians also lied to Amir– telling him his mother had died, according to the Daily Mail. Amir had been in the prison since 2011. He was arrested by Iranian authorities while he was visiting his dying grandmother and was falsely accused of being a CIA spy.

In a Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 photo provided by the Hekmati family, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, Mich., meets with former Iran prisoner Amir Hekmati at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. Kildee told reporters that he's been working to free Hekmati and couldn't wait to meet him in person. (Courtesy of the Hekmati Family via AP)
In a Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 photo provided by the Hekmati family, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, Mich., meets with former Iran prisoner Amir Hekmati at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. Kildee told reporters that he’s been working to free Hekmati and couldn’t wait to meet him in person. (Courtesy of the Hekmati Family via AP)

During Hekmati’s long periods in solitary, he was reportedly subjected to sleep deprivation. He told NBC News that his military training helped him survive the unjust and “inhumane conditions.”

“I didn’t want to let my fellow Marines down, and the reputation of the Marine Corps, so I tried my best to keep my head up and withstand all the pressure that were put upon me,” he said.

Hekmati also said during his press conference, in Germany: “Hearing about some of my fellow Marines supporting me really gave me the strength to put up with over four years of some very difficult times that me and my family went through.”

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