TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – An Iranian court has convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death, state radio reported Monday, in a case adding to the accelerating tension between the United States and Iran.
Iran charges that as a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission. The radio report did not say when the verdict was issued. Under Iranian law, he has 20 days to appeal.
The 28-year-old former military translator was born in Arizona and graduated from high school in Michigan. His family is of Iranian origin. His father, a professor at a community college in Flint, Michigan, has said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.
His trial took place as the U.S. announced new, tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which Washington believes Tehran is using to develop a possible atomic weapons capability.
Iran, which says it only seeks nuclear reactors for energy and research, has sharply increased its threats and military posturing against stronger pressures, including the U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank in attempts to complicate its ability to sell oil.
The U.S. State Department has demanded Hekmati’s release.
The court convicted him of working with a hostile country, belonging to the CIA and trying to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism, Monday’s report said.
In its ruling, a branch of Tehran Revolutionary Court described Hekmati as a mohareb, an Islamic term that means a fighter against God, and a mofsed, or one who spreads corruption on earth. Both terms appear frequently in Iranian court rulings.
In a closed court hearing in late December, the prosecution asked for the death penalty for Hekmati.
The U.S. government has called on Iranian authorities to grant Swiss diplomats access to him in prison. The Swiss government represents U.S. interests in Iran because the two countries don’t have diplomatic relations.
Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian national. Iran considers him an Iranian since the country’s law does not recognize dual citizenship.
His father, Ali Hekmati, and family friend Muna Jondy, an attorney who has been speaking on behalf of the family, did not immediately respond to emails and phone messages left at their offices before business hours Monday morning.
Similar cases against Americans accused of spying have heightened tensions throughout the years-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran arrested three Americans in July 2009 along the border with Iraq and accused them of espionage, though the Americans said they were just hiking in the scenic and relatively peaceful Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
One of them was released after a year in prison, and the other two were freed in September in deals involving bail payments that were brokered by the Gulf sultanate of Oman, which has good relations with Iran and the U.S.
On Dec. 18, Iran’s state TV broadcast video of Hekmati delivering a purported confession in which he said he was part of a plot to infiltrate Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
In a statement released the same day, the Intelligence Ministry said its agents identified Hekmati before his arrival in Iran, at Bagram Air Field in neighboring Afghanistan. Bagram is the main base for American and other international forces outside Kabul, the Afghan capital.
It is not clear exactly when he was arrested. Iranian news reports have said he was detained in late August or early September.
Hekmati’s father, Ali, said in a December interview with The Associated Press, that his son was a former Arabic translator in the U.S. Marines who entered Iran about four months earlier to visit his grandmothers.
At the time, he was working in Qatar as a contractor for a company “that served the Marines,” his father said, without providing more specific details.
Hong Lei, China: “Unilateral” US Sanctions Against Iran Violates International Law
China on Wednesday strongly criticized the United States for imposing fresh sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program.
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) transits the Strait of Hormuz. Bataan is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing that dialogue and negotiations – not sanctions – are the best way to ease tensions and resolve the dispute.
“China is against one country putting their domestic laws above international law and placing unilateral sanctions on another country.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
Hong acknowledged that China has what he called “regular, open and transparent economic and energy interactions with Iran” that do not violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and will not impair third party interests. Therefore, he said, such interactions should not be affected by the latest sanctions.
Last week, the United States imposed a new round of sanctions against financial institutions that deal with Iran’s central bank. The move could affect Iran’s ability to sell oil on international markets.
China – a key trading partner of Iran – has repeatedly insisted that Western sanctions against Tehran will make the situation more complicated and could hurt chances for peace and stability.
Iran is one of the world’s largest producers of crude oil, and China is among its top customers.
Western nations have imposed increasingly tight sanctions against Iran, believing its nuclear program is aimed at building a nuclear weapon. Iran has rejected the accusations, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
- Amir Mirza Hekmati Sentenced to Death in Iran for Spying (VIDEO) (blippitt.com)
- Iran judge condemns American to death for spying (calgaryherald.com)