Iran court sentences accused American spy Amir Mirzaei Hekmati to death
By Thomas Erdbrink, Updated: Monday, January 9, 11:11 AM
TEHRAN — An Iranian court on Monday convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death, state media reported.
Iranian authorities allege that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, received special training at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before being dispatched on a spy mission in Iran. Hekmati, 28, was born in Arizona but holds dual citizenship. The United States denies that he is a spy.
Hekmati has 20 days to appeal the court’s decision, which comes at a time of increasing tension between Tehran and Washington.
The United States is pursuing tough sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, and diplomats in Vienna told wire services on Monday that Iran has begun uranium enrichment at an underground mountain bunker, using a process that makes uranium that can be upgraded for weapons use more quickly than the country’s main stockpile.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is for energy and scientific purposes only, not for use in atomic weapons.
Just last week, Iran warned a U.S. aircraft carrier not to return to the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, prompting strong warnings from the U.S. military against any action.
“Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations,” said Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. “Any disruption will not be tolerated.”
Precisely when and where Hekmati was arrested is unclear. Iranian news reports have said he was detained in late August or early September, according to the Associated Press. The New York Times reported that the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said its agents tracked the young man from Bagram air base in Afghanistan, arresting him after he crossed the border into Iran.
Hekmati’s family members, who live in Michigan, reportedly said he was in Iran to visit his grandmother.
In Washington, a State Department spokesperson reiterated previous statements denying that Hekmati was a spy. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. officials were working through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to obtain information about Hekmati’s case and to press for his release. The Swiss government represents U.S. interests in Iran, because Iran does not have diplomatic relations with Washington.
“If true, we strongly condemn this verdict,” Nuland said. “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.”
Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television in December and purportedly confessed to working for the CIA. It is unclear whether the statements were made under duress.
“It was their plan to first burn some useful information, give it to them [the Iranians] and let the Intelligence Ministry think that this is good material and contact me afterwards,” Hekmati said in his television appearance.
He went on to say that the CIA ordered him “to become a source for [Iran’s] Intelligence Ministry” and remain in Tehran “for three weeks and feed them this information, get some money for it and come back.”
Iranian media have reported that Hekmati was spotted by Iranian intelligence operatives while visiting Bagram air base north of Kabul.
Several assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and mysterious explosions at military and industrial sites in recent years have prompted Iran to keep closer tabs on dual nationals visiting the country. Hekmati is considered an Iranian by the government in Tehran, not an American, because the country does not recognize dual citizenship,
During Hekmati’s trial, the state prosecutor demanded “the most severe punishment” in retaliation for what he alleged was increased spy activities by the United States, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
Hekmati was convicted of working with a hostile country, belonging to the CIA and trying to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism, Fars reported.
He was described by the court as a “mohareb,” an Islamic legal term meaning he “waged war against God,” and a “mofsed,” or someone who “spreads corruption on the earth,” the AP reported.
The judge, Abolghassem Salavati, has presided over mass trials against activists before, sentencing at least three people to death after having given them similar labels.
Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report from Washington.
The article provides some background on the article. We have the predictable stances, with Iran saying he is a spy and the US saying he isn't, along with statements from his parents here saying he was visiting grandparents. I think it takes place in context of the increasing tensions with US especially after the US's similarly alleged assassination plot of the Saudi ambassador a few months back.
Not so surprising considering how many Iranians have died in assassinations in recent months. But killing an US citizen isn't going to help with the tensions which seem to be running high with military exercises in the Gulf and news of a new enrichment facility ready for work in Iran.
"Oh no, we lost another moron."
Iran's rulers have to be seen to be doing something. It's how they keep things ticking over. Wonder whether this guy will get a pardon from the gov. Courts and gov over there have been rattling at each other for a while now.
Snipes With Artillery
22nd March 2005
Gee, there's never been any sort of war sparked by something as small as the death of one person, right? This might turn out to be nothing, but this worries me.
-shrug- I don't see there's too much to worry about. Iran doesn't have the capability to project any real force to the U.S. or Europe. If a war happens, it'll be a local concern.
Helen Of Troy's beauty launched a thousand ships.
I doubt he's that good looking.
It does not create a reason for war from the US and others' perspective- those are already there to begin with. What they do however is sway popular opinion one way or another so the more unsavory parts of those motivations for war aren't as clear. Leading up to Iraq we saw the media bring up various facets of Iraq's oppression- some true, some false, some exaggerated, along with the threats of a nuclear and chemically armed Iraq and its potential cooperation with terrorists if left alone. More stories to show Iran as a hellish state (which it is) serves another purpose. His former status as a Marine adds to it too- lot of bad stuff put out in Iran (and Iraq and Afghanistan for that matter) for locals and expats who 'sell out'.
I feel bad for the guy though. I don't wish for the death penalty for anyone, and he's been caught up in a political feud between two nations, much like those interned in Bagrum or Gitmo.
Snipes With Artillery
22nd March 2005
Nemmerle;5600174-shrug- I don't see there's too much to worry about. Iran doesn't have the capability to project any real force to the U.S. or Europe. If a war happens, it'll be a local concern.
Now, I don't really want to come across as a warmongering FOX NEWS watcher, but how much capability did you think Al Qaeda had to a) kill a few thousand Americans in a day, and b) get the USA involved in an absurdly expensive series of wars, draining the enthusiasm, populace, international goodwill, and finances of the country to their current level?
If you apply the right amount of force at the right time, it doesn't have to be very large in and of itself.
I didn't make it!
I would hope that if we did have to go to war with Iran, we wouldn't decide to do the usual "nation-building" afterwards. Kick their asses, leave, let them sort out the mess.