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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid