Iran Sentences To Death First American Citizen
Tue, January 10, 2012
A court in Tehran has sentenced to death an Iranian American who was convicted of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency, Iranian media reported on Monday.
The sentencing of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, 28, is likely to add to the already heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, which has been escalating over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program.
Prosecutors accused Hekmati of "cooperation with an enemy government, membership in the CIA and attempts to accuse Iran of supporting terrorism," the semi official Fars news agency reported. A branch of Iran's Revolutionary Court found him to be a "corrupter on Earth" and "waging war on God," the news service reports said, expressions that routinely appear in Iranian court cases.
Last month, Iranian state television broadcast video of a purported confession by Hekmati in which he said he had been sent by the CIA to infiltrate Iranian intelligence services.
Iran alleges that Hekmati served at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and received specialized training. The Intelligence Ministry said its agents identified Hekmati at Bagram air base in neighboring Afghanistan and tracked him as he infiltrated Iran.
Hekmati's family said any confessions would have been made under duress. His father, Ali Hekmati, a community college professor in Flint, Mich., told the Associated Press that his son was a former U.S. military translator who was in Iran to visit his two grandmothers.
Amir Hekmati was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, and graduated from high school in Flint, according to the AP report. It is not clear when exactly he was arrested. His father told the news service it was about three weeks after he arrived in August.
Hekmati's family said they have struggled to provide him with an attorney in Iran.
"We have sought to hire at least 10 different attorneys to no avail," the family said in a statement this month. They said Hekmati's “only advocate in Iran was a government-appointed lawyer who he met on the first day of his trial."
Iran has a record of arresting and convicting Americans suspected of spying, then freeing them later after bail money has been paid. But rights activists said Mr. Hekmati’s case was the first in the nearly 33-year history of estranged relations with the United States in which Iran’s Islamic authorities had ordered the execution of an American citizen.
“This whole case is very politically motivated,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an advocacy group based in New York that has been monitoring Mr. Hekmati’s case. “There’s absolutely no evidence against him.”
The U.S. State Department has demanded Hekmati's release, saying he was falsely accused.
The department's deputy spokesman, Mark C. Toner, said last month that Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, had been denied access to Hekmati. The U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 after Iranian militants took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage.
"We call on the government of Iran to grant the Swiss protecting power immediate access to him and release him without delay," Toner said.
In July 2009, Iran arrested three Americans along the border with Iraq and accused them of spying. The three said they were tourists who had been hiking in the scenic and relatively peaceful northern Kurdish region of Iraq. One of them was released after a year in prison; the other two were freed in September 2011.