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International Relations

US citizen sentenced to death in Iran for espionage

Despite protest from Washington, a US citizen has been sentenced to death in Iran after being found guilty of espionage, adding heat to the diplomatic row between Washington and Teheran.

Hekmati during an interview on Iranian state TV

Hekmati confessed to being a CIA agent on Iranian state TV

A US citizen has been sentenced to death in Iran after being found guilty of espionage. Twenty-eight-year-old Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, who also has Iranian citizenship, had been arrested in December for allegedly working for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Iran's Revolutionary Court handed Hekmati the death sentence "for cooperating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism," according to the Iranian Fars news agency.

Arizona-born Hekmati, a former US Marine, had reportedly confessed on Iranian state television (IRIB) to receiving training in Afghanistan and Iraq before being sent to Iran to infiltrate the secret service.

The sentence comes despite US demands for his release. According to the State Department, Teheran has refused to grant Hekmati access to Swiss diplomats, who handle Washington's interests in the absence of US-Iranian diplomatic ties.

Hekmati's family in the US maintains he had been in Iran to visit relatives and that he is not a spy.

According to Iranian law, Hekmati now has 20 days to appeal.

Iranian news media also reported more alleged spies had been arrested, though no names or nationalities were given.

Monday's verdict is the newest point of friction in a recent row between Teheran and Washington which began at the end of December, when Iran vowed to block the 54-kilometer wide (35 miles) Strait of Hormuz - an important route for Middle Eastern oil - over sanctions.

Author: Sarah Berning (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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