An Iranian court has convicted an Iranian-American man of spying for the CIA and sentenced him to death, Iranian state news media reported Monday.
The alleged spy is 28 year-old Amir Mirzaei Hekmati. Hekmati “has 20 days to appeal the court’s decision, which comes at a time of increasing tensions between Tehran and Washington,” according to a report in the Washington Post.
Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Arabic language translator in Iraq, was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. His family in Michigan, former colleagues and American government officials say Hekmati never served in the CIA and was in Iran to visit his grandmother.
Hekmati’s parents said they “are shocked and terrified” by the news, his mother Behnaz Hekmati wrote at the website they’ve set up to advocate for Amir’s release, FreeAmir. Hekmati’s father Ali is a professor of biology at a Flint Michigan community. “We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair.”
“Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or ‘fighting against God,’ as the convicting Judge has claimed in his sentence,” his mother’s post continues. “A grave error has been committed, and we have authorized our legal representatives to make direct contact with the Iranian authorities to find a solution to this misunderstanding.”
Hekmati’s family said he had the permission of the Iranian interests section–the U.S. based diplomatic outpost for the Islamic republic–in Washington D.C. to travel to Iran in August to visit his elderly grandmother. After his arrest on August 29, Iranian officials told the family to keep quiet in order to facilitate his release.
However, in December, Iranian state media aired video of Hekmati allegedly confessing to having worked as a CIA agent. His family and friends vehemently deny these charges and said it appears he had given that “confession” under extreme duress. This would not be the first time an American was accused of spying in Iran, supposedly confessed and was put through a Kangaroo Court.
Hekmati joined the Marines in 2001 after graduating from high school. He had called a friend last year to propose launching a business together. Last month he told another friend he was thinking of going back to school to get a business degree. None of this sounds like a man preparing for a career as a government spy.
Until last month, Hekmati’s Facebook page displayed photos of himself in various locales he had worked. This is an indication, his friends say, that he was not in any way seeking to conceal his recent activities or past work in the U.S. military. Several other associates and observers have cited Hekmati’s Facebook account as cause to doubt Iranian claims he was a deep-cover American spy.
Read full story@ yahoo