A judge has sentenced a US-Iranian man to death for allegedly spying for the CIA, a report said yesterday, exacerbating Tehran-Washington tensions already high because of Western sanctions on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a 28-year-old former Marine born in the US, was “sentenced to death for -cooperating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism,” the Fars news agency said, quoting a verdict by a Revolutionary Court judge in Tehran.
Hekmati, born to an Iranian immigrant family living in the US, was shown on state TV in the middle of last month saying in fluent Farsi and English that he was a CIA operative sent to infiltrate Iran’s intelligence ministry. He had been arrested months earlier.
Iranian officials said his cover was blown by agents for Iran, who spotted him at the US-run Bagram military air base in Afghanistan.
However, Hekmati’s family in the US told US media he had traveled to Iran to visit his Iranian -grandmothers and said he was not a spy.
In his sole trial hearing, on Dec. 27, prosecutors relied on Hekmati’s “confession” to say he tried to penetrate the intelligence ministry by posing as a disaffected former US soldier with classified information.
The US has demanded Hekmati’s release.
The US Department of State said Iran did not permit diplomats from the Swiss embassy — which handles Washington’s interests in the absence of US-Iran ties — to see Hekmati before or during his trial.
Hekmati’s death sentence adds to a series of grave points of contention between Iran and the US stemming from an escalating showdown over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Last month, Iran showed off what it said was a CIA drone it captured using cyberwarfare.
It also said on Sunday it had arrested an unspecified number of “spies” who allegedly sought to carry out US plans to disrupt parliamentary elections in March.
The suspects were not identified by name or nationality and, as with numerous previous similar announcements, the accusation was not publicly substantiated.