American citizen and former US marine Amir Mirzai Hekmati, 28, has been sentenced to death on a court in Tehran after being accused of espionage for the CIA
Amir Mizrai Hekmati, an Arizona-native of Iranian descent, has been sentenced to death earlier this week by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran after being accused of working for the CIA and US intelligence. According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Hekmati was sentenced to death “for co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism,” as well as having “attempted to feed misinformation to Iranian agents”.
Members within the establishment of Iran’s Revolutionary court believe Hekmati’s guilt was proven beyond doubt when footage of his alleged video confession was broadcast on Iranian state TV on December 18. In his televised statement, Mr. Hekmati said he had been sent to Iran by the CIA to infiltrate Iran’s intelligence agencies and spread misinformation. Fars News Agency also claims that in the video and during his trial later in December, according to Fars, Mr Hekmati admitted he did have links to the CIA, but had never intended to harm Iran. Iran’s judicial and political systems place a heavy emphasis on the importance of confessions as valid empirical evidence in trials and at this point it seems that little can be done to change the court’s final decision. Hekmati has less than 20 days to appeal.
The parents of the former US marine say that they were “shocked and terrified” by his death sentence and insist that he was in Iran solely to visit his Iranian grandmothers while on vacation. They also claim that not only are the accusations fabricated and without substance, but that the entire political process was ‘neither transparent nor fair”.
“Amir is not a criminal. His very life is being exploited for political gain,” his mother, Behnaz Hekmati, wrote in an email to the Associated Press News Agency.
“We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time”, she adds.
However, Iran officials claim that Hekmati’s cover was blown even before he had arrived in the country, because Iranian agents collected footage of the US-run Bagram military air base in neighbouring Afghanistan. Despite these claims, Hekmati’s sentence has been met with wide criticism from the US. State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated “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.”
It seems that Iran can once again hail itself as a power not to be reckoned with as objections against Hekmati’s sentence are ignored, pointing to the powerlessness of the international community in Iran’s internal affairs.
The death sentence comes at a time of renewed tensions between Iran and the West as on the same day that Iran’s security forces claimed to have cracked down on a U.S spy network and around the same time that it was revealed that Iran has started uranium enrichment. Tensions have been further exacerbated after the US recently said it would impose an embargo on Iran’s oil exports.
Hekmati’s case is just one of many other notable dual-nationality arrests in Iran; In May 2007 four Iranian American academics were detained for some three to four months on suspicion of spying and in June 2009 Iranian-American Journalist Roxana Saberi was detained for four months on spying charges.
Featured image is a still taken from Iranian state television via youtube.