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Terrorism & Security

Iran sentences American to death for spying

Iranian-American Mirzaei Hekmati was sentenced to death in Iran today after being accused of spying for the US – a charge leveled against Americans in Iran many times before. 

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American diplomatic officials demanded the release of Hekmati and complained that officials from the Swiss Embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, were not allowed to see him before or during his trial. Charges like those leveled against the Iranian-American are not uncommon in Iran and The New York Times reports that Islamic Republic regularly announces it has captured people spying on behalf of the US and Israel

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Hekmati’s family members in Arizona, where he is originally from, have insisted that he is innocent.

In 2009, three American hikers were arrested while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border and were accused of being spies. One was released in 2010, but the other two were held until September 2011. Also in 2009, American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has Iranian roots, was accused of spying and held in prison for four months. 

“We are deeply concerned for the fate and well-being of Amir,” Hekmati's mother, Behnaz, told CNN before the sentencing. “We are also disturbed by the video and reports coming from the Iranian court that describe Amir admitting to being a spy. It is clear to me and our entire family that Amir is speaking under duress.”

Tensions between the US and Iran were already elevated before Hekmati’s sentencing, the BBC reports. In late December, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil trade passes. Iranian officials also threatened to take action if a group of US naval ships passed through the Strait. American officials have said they will respond with military action if Iran attempts to close the waterway.


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