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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.