Iran Sentences Alleged CIA Spy to Death

January 10th, 2012 - by admin

BBC & Associated Press & Reuters – 2012-01-10 02:34:46

Iranian Judge Sentences American to Death for Spying
Brian Thomas / Associated Press

Apologies for the ad that introduces the video.

(January 9, 2012) — A US man of Iranian descent has been sentenced to death by a court in Tehran for spying for the CIA. Amir Mirzai Hekmati was “sentenced to death for co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism,” semi-official Fars news agency said. The sentence comes at a time of fresh tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme. The US said that, if true, it strongly condemned the verdict.

First Video of Confessions of American-born CIA Spy Amir Mirzaei Hekmati
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TEHRAN (December 18, 2011) — The Iranian TV aired on Sunday 18 December the first video containing confessions of a alleged American spy arrested earlier . In this clip the American born Amir Mirzaei Hekmati who is from a Iranian descent confess that he was commissioned by government agencies to gather information from Iran by playing the role of a double agent.

Iran Death Sentence for ‘CIA Spy’ Amir Mirzai Hekmati
James Reynolds / BBC World News

(January 9, 2012) — A US man of Iranian descent has been sentenced to death by a court in Tehran for spying for the CIA. Amir Mirzai Hekmati was “sentenced to death for co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism,” semi-official Fars news agency said.

The sentence comes at a time of fresh tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme. The US said that, if true, it strongly condemned the verdict.

State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was working with its partners to try to confirm the reports of Mr. Hekmati’s death sentence. She added: “Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue.

“The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”

Mr. Hekmati has an American passport and is a former US marine. The US says he should be released without delay.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that further sanctions imposed by the West “will not have any impact on our nation”.

“The Islamic establishment… knows firmly what it is doing and has chosen its path and will stay the course,” he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Diplomats at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirm work has begun at an underground site near the holy city of Qom to enrich uranium to near weapons-grade level.

Televised ‘Confession’
Iran says that, as a former marine, Mr. Hekmati received training at US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq before being sent to Iran for his alleged intelligence-gathering mission.

Iranian officials said his cover was blown even before he had arrived in the country, because he had been spotted by Iranian agents at the US-run Bagram military air base in neighbouring Afghanistan.

On 18 December, Mr. Hekmati was shown on Iranian state television allegedly confessing to being part of a plot to infiltrate Iran’s intelligence services for the CIA. And during his trial later in December, according to Fars, Mr. Hekmati admitted he did have links to the CIA, but had never intended to harm Iran.

“I was deceived by the CIA…. Although I was appointed to break into Iran’s intelligence systems and act as a new source for the CIA, I had no intention of undermining the country,” Fars quoted him as saying.

Mr. Hekmati’s family, who live in Arizona, say the charges against him are fabricated and that he was in Iran to visit his grandmothers. His mother, Behnaz Hekmati, said in an email to the Associated Press news agency that the verdict was “the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair,” and that she and her husband Ali were “shocked and terrified”.

“Amir is not a criminal. His very life is being exploited for political gain,” she wrote. “We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time.”

His father, Ali Hekmati, a college professor in Flint, Michigan, said his son joined the US military in 2001 and served in the Marines, where he was an Arabic translator.

At the time of his visit to Iran and subsequent arrest, Amir Hekmati was working in Qatar as a contractor for a company “that served the Marines”, his father was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

The US state department said Swiss diplomats in Iran — who handle Washington’s interests because of an absence of US-Iran diplomatic relations — were not allowed to see Mr. Hekmati before his trial. Mr. Hekmati has 20 days to appeal against the sentence.

‘Red Line’
The sentence further heightens the tensions between Iran and the West, which increased after the US said it would impose new sanctions on Iran’s central bank and the European Union said it would impose an embargo on Iran’s oil exports.

Western nations believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran has always insisted its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. But news that uranium enrichment is reported to have begun at the Fordo underground site near Qom will do nothing to ease the West’s concerns, correspondents say.

Diplomats at the IAEA were quoted as saying that uranium at the site is being enriched to 20% — much higher than the 3.5% usually required for nuclear plants. Enrichment to that level makes it much quicker and easier to make a nuclear bomb.

The move at Fordo was expected, but the fact that this work is taking place underground is cause for concern to those who want to air strikes against Iran’s nuclear plants.

In response to the sanctions threat, Tehran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz — a key route from the Gulf through which 20% of the world’s traded oil passes. US defence chiefs on Sunday warned that they would take action if Iran closed the strait. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said such a move would cross a “red line” and “we would take action and reopen the strait”.

James Reynolds, BBC Iran correspondent

Iran’s judicial and political systems place huge emphasis on the importance of confessions. So, for many in Iran’s establishment, Amir Hekmati’s guilt was proven beyond doubt during a televised confession broadcast on Iranian state TV in December.

In his televised statement, Mr. Hekmati said he had been sent to Iran by the CIA to infiltrate Iran’s intelligence agencies and spread misinformation. So it’s little surprise that Iran’s Revolutionary Court has now sentenced him to death.

The US state department says Mr. Hekmati has been falsely accused, and his family say he had simply gone to Iran to visit his grandmothers.

Mr. Hekmati is now expected to lodge an appeal against his sentence with Iran’s Supreme Court.

It’s difficult to predict how the case against him will now proceed. Mr. Hekmati has a high profile and holds an American passport. A decision to go ahead with his execution may have an impact on tensions between Iran and the West — which have got worse in recent weeks.

Dual-nationality arrests in Iran
May 2007: Four Iranian-American academics — including Haleh Esfandiari — detained for some three to four months on suspicion of spying

June 2009: Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari detained for four months for being a spy after covering post-election unrest

Jailed 2009: Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi detained for four months on spying charges.

CIA Spy Arrested in Iran after ‘Espionage Missions Were Revealed’

(December 17, 2011) — Iranian authorities said on Saturday they had arrested an Iranian caught spying for the United States, the Islamic Republic’s latest claim of success in a spying war with Washington. State TV quoted the Intelligence Ministry as saying the arrested person had received training at US bases in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq and was meant to feed false information to Iranian intelligence.

“This CIA agent of Iranian nationality began his mission after receiving training in weapons use,” the ministry said in a statement quoted on television. “But he was identified by Iranian intelligence agents and his espionage missions were revealed.” He was supposed to launch his mission from Bagram base in Afghanistan, the intelligence ministry report said, but Iranian intelligence agents helped him enter Iran and later arrested him.

Current and former US officials told Reuters in November that Iran had succeeded in uncovering the identities of several CIA informants. Iran said in May it had arrested 30 people on suspicion of spying for the United States and last Tuesday 15 people were indicted for spying for Washington and Israel. Spying in Iran can be punishable by death.

On December 4, Iran announced it had downed a US spy plane in the eastern part of the country, near Afghanistan. It has since shown the plane on television and said it is close to cracking its technological secrets.

The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to tighten sanctions on Iran, which it accuses of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Washington and Israel say they do not rule out making strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites.

(c) Thomson Reuters 2011

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