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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid