BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As the case against four men accused of kidnapping and killing Tahereh Ghassemi advances in court, friends of the victim's son, Hamed Ghassemi, are overwhelmed with worry. However, they are also feeling powerless to help. They say the Baton Rouge man is locked up in an Iranian prison for charges they can't believe are real.
"He is an American citizen and he's being held over there. It's not fair," said Emily Crook, a longtime friend of Hamed.
It all started months ago, when Ghassemi traveled to his family's native Iran to bury his mother, Tahereh. She was shot to death in Baton Rouge in April, the victim of an apparent murder-for-hire plot. Police say her death was arranged by her ex-husband, Hamid Ghassemi.
Friends say the funeral trip was only supposed to last a few weeks.
"I started getting worried and then two months went by," said Crook. "That's when I kind of made a plea and that's when someone from Iran contacted me and told me he had been locked up."
Crook has kept in touch with friends of Ghassemi in Iran through Facebook. They tell her they're hopeful he'll be free soon, but weeks have passed without change.
Like others who know Ghassemi, Crook said she has been hesitant to speak out. LSU Law professor Scott Sullivan understands their reasoning.
Sullivan, who teaches foreign relations and international law, said there is a fine line between bringing needed attention to a case and creating a political controversy.
"It's also important to remember that sometimes lower governmental officials make mistakes, both in Iran and in the United States," said Sullivan. "It's also something that the Department of State is thinking about, that when the higher authorities get word about what's occurred they may be able to unwind it quietly in Iran itself."
Meanwhile, Crook and others have begun reaching out to local, state and federal officials for help. There is also an online petition asking the White House to step in.
Several officials have acknowledged they are aware of the case, but haven't been able to reveal much more.
"We have been in touch with the State Department and the intelligence community and the law enforcement community on this. We are staying up to date about what is exactly going on," said U.S. Representative Garret Graves, R-District 6.
Back in Baton Rouge, the Tahereh case continues to moving forward in the courts. Her ex-husband was indicted last week on a first-degree murder charge. They are due back in court Wednesday morning for an arraignment.