News / Middle East

Iran Sentences American Man to Death as Alleged CIA Spy

Iranian-American Amir Mirza Hekmati, who has been sentenced to death by Iran's Revolutionary Court on the charge of spying for the CIA, speaks in this undated still image taken from video in an undisclosed location in Iran, January 9, 2012.
Iranian-American Amir Mirza Hekmati, who has been sentenced to death by Iran's Revolutionary Court on the charge of spying for the CIA, speaks in this undated still image taken from video in an undisclosed location in Iran, January 9, 2012.
Dominic Laurie

Iran announced on Monday it had sentenced a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen to death for spying for the CIA, creating fresh grounds for hostility with Washington at a time when Tehran has responded to new U.S. sanctions with military threats.

Iran's Revolutionary Court announced through Iranian media Monday that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati has been sentenced to death.  His crimes: cooperating with a hostile nation, being a member of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism.

A former U.S. Marine, the 28-year-old Hekmati was arrested last month.

Hekmati said he received training at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before traveling to Iran to carry out his alleged espionage. His family said he was in Iran visiting grandparents.

Last month Iranian TV showed Hekmati appearing to confess his crimes, in a mixture of English and Farsi. Hekmati said he was an American CIA operative sent to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence ministry. He talked of receiving language and espionage training.

The White House on Monday denied that Hekmati was a spy. His sentencing is causing alarm among veteran Iran watchers in the United States.

Mansour Farhang, now an international relations professor at Bennington College in the U.S. state of Vermont, was Iran’s first ambassador to the United Nations after the Iranian revolution:

“There is no such a thing as an independent judiciary in Iran. The judicial decisions in regard to political prisoners are totally and completely politically motivated," said Farhang. "Here is a trial that no journalist has access to, and we don’t even know if Mr. Amir Hekmati had a lawyer defending him. The only evidence to support the regime's claim that Amir Hekmati was a U.S. spy is his confession on television."

Relations between Iran and the West are growing increasingly tense.

Washington fears Iran is pursuing an atomic weapons program. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. The European Union and the U.S. are tightening sanctions on Iranian oil shipments. Iran has responded by threatening to close the straits of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil shipping route.

Given the backdrop, Farhang wonders why Hekmati would visit Iran.

"He took a risk that was really irrational, in my opinion. It is unimaginable for me that such a person would be chosen to do intelligence work. Because the U.S. government knows that any American with dual nationality receiving a visa in Washington and going to Iran would be under constant surveillance," said Farhang.

Hekmati’s execution could still be blocked by Iran’s highest court, which must confirm all death sentences. But Drewery Dyke from the rights group Amnesty International in London isn’t optimistic.

"I think it would be difficult to imagine a greater degree of transparency, a great degree of fairness when there has been such an absence of transparency up to now. From that perspective, we have grave concerns," said Dyke.

The U.S. government, which has demanded Hekmati's immediate release, says it is watching developments.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid