Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Game Designer Sentenced to Execution in Iran on Propoganda Charges

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 10, 2012

I  doubt that U.S. born Iranian-American Amir Mizra Hekmati had any idea that being a game designer would target him by the Iranians when he went to the country to visit his grandmother and other relatives (for the first time) last fall.

His crime? As near as I can tell from the usual smokescreen of wild-ass claims that come from countries like this, it is being a designer on a video game that pissed off the Iranian regime. The fact that he was a former U.S. Marine was probably all the “proof” that they needed.

This is scary stuff. This is not the sort of thing that I ever expected to see in my most paranoid delusions. I really hope that this is just saber-rattling on the part of Iran, and that he’ll be released unharmed soon.  According to the New York Times article about this, Iran has a history of “arresting” Americans on espionage charges and then releasing them after their ransom “bail” is paid. Whether or not this remains true with the escalating tensions over Iran’s nuclear program remains to be seen.

Gamasutra: Video Game Designer Sentenced to Death in Iran on Propaganda Charges

Free Amir Website

I don’t want to make light of any of this, as I’m truly worried about a fellow game developer. This really sucks. But if you wanted any more evidence that Video Games are a legitimate medium of expression of ideas – worthy of first amendment protection here in the United States (which the Supreme Court already validated last year), this would be a biggie.

Prayers for Amir, and for his family.

Filed Under: Politics - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • jzoeller said,

    It seems pretty clear to me that they were simply “pissed off” at the content of his games.

    I think this is a reminder to many people that there are still many places in the world that you can be put to death for an idea.

    Prayers go out to him and his family.

  • Picador said,

    Not to defend the Iranian government, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in anything the American media have to say about this case, or about anything having to do with Iran. Especially not the NYT.

    There’s pretty solid evidence that the guy worked for the CIA. How do you think the US would react to finding an Iranian government spy working in their country? Hint: it would probably involve indefinite detention without trial and torture in some CIA dungeon in Malaysia.

    Again, not to defend Iran. The regime there is corrupt and authoritarian, and this guy is obviously being used as a bargaining chip in the upcoming negotiations. But it’s not like the US is looking a lot better these days. And your characterization of this guy as some innocent game designer is a bit naive: by all accounts (including his own, on videotape, as well as the non-denial denials of the US military and intelligence agencies), he was a CIA psy-ops guy operating in Iran. He knew what he was getting into. And the Iranians, of all people, have legitimate reason to hate the CIA and to act with extreme prejudice against CIA operations in their country given the history of that agency’s Iranian operations in the last 50 years.

  • jzoeller said,

    Ya, there is no doubt he was some place he should not have been, given what he was doing.

    @Picador, you are right about the US also, make a game about killing president Obama and see what happens…

  • rioka said,


    Oh yeah, they’ll be a shit-storm but the difference between here (US) and there (Iran) is that you will be protected by the First Amendment. You can’t even say that for Iranians.

    Speaking of which, I recently saw a news clip on the BBC about Iranian indie musicians. Unfortunately for them, the Iranian government does not condone their work as of art value and is outlawed. Fortunately, they do have an underground and this one particular band have been approved to sell their music on iTunes.

    Anyways, regarding the story – it’s an unfortunate state of events but there are always risks taken when visiting countries that are hostile to US citizens. I wish him and his family the best.

  • skavenhorde said,

    @picador His own accounts by videotape? This wouldn’t be AFTER he was detained would it? I know even at the first sight of torture I would say whatever the hell they wanted me to.

    I haven’t a clue as to whether or not he is working for the CIA and find it a bit presumptuous of anyone who says they do know.

    Here’s what we do know. They sentenced him to death and he helped make a video game that the government did not like one bit. Everything else is speculation.

    BTW, this has happened many times. The most recent I remember is when Jason Jones from The Daily Show went to Iran during the election (yes, he actually went there) and did a few interviews with some of the people there. One of them was Maziar Bahari. I highly recommend you see the interview with him after he was released (118 days later).

    Maybe, just maybe, this guy is innocent and his only crime against that messed up regime is that he made a video game they didn’t like. It doesn’t surprise me one bit they would pull something like this.

    Maziar Bahari interview

    Part One: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-june-6-2011/exclusive—maziar-bahari-extended-interview-pt–1

    Part Two: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-june-6-2011/exclusive—maziar-bahari-extended-interview-pt–2

    Part Three: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-june-6-2011/exclusive—maziar-bahari-extended-interview-pt–3