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News | Iran Sentences American to Death in 'CIA Spy' Case

09 Jan 2012 16:12Comments

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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

AmirHekmatiAndChild.jpg11 p.m., 19 Dey/January 9 The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) has called for the immediate reversal of the death sentence imposed on Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the American convicted by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the CIA. The statement released by ICHRI today provides more details on the case involving the former U.S. Marine:
A source close to the family told the Campaign that the US citizen entered Iran for the first time on 15 August 2011 to visit with his family members. He was arrested on 29 August 2011 on charges of espionage.

"When Amir supplied his background and applied for his passport processing at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC, he was assured that his prior employment with the US government was not going to impede his trip to Iran nor cause him any problems," the source added.

Four months after his arrest in August 2011, Hekmati's first court session was held on 27 December at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. Presiding Judge Abolghassem Salavati denied Hekmati the lawyer hired by his family to represent him. Instead, a court-appointed lawyer represented him during the trial without ever seeing him beforehand.

Judge Salavati is one of Iran's most notorious judges, well known for the unlawful and harsh sentences he has delivered to dozens of political prisoners during the post-election show trials. He has sentenced more than one hundred political prisoners, human rights activists, and peaceful demonstrators to lengthy prison sentences as well as at least nine execution sentences, earning the moniker "The Judge of Death." [...]

The source close to the family told the Campaign that over the course of Hekmati's arrest, Iranian authorities pressured them not to talk with the media, assuring the family they would release Hekmati soon. During his arrest and subsequent detention, Hekmati was never allowed to contact his family in the US.

According to state-operated Fars News Agency, Hekmati allegedly entered Iran with the aim of penetrating the country's intelligence system. Further examination, according to a report by the Judicial-Legal Director of the Intelligence Ministry's Espionage Unit, indicated that his goal was to accuse Iran of involvement with terrorism. His indictment alleged that Hekmati was recruited by the CIA in May 2009 to carry out espionage missions in Iran.

The family asserts that what was said in the indictment regarding Hekmati's background, his prior service in the US military and his prior employment with the US government, is in the public record and he never hid what he did in the past. All the information regarding his background could be obtained from his passport application, as well as from his resume, easily accessible from his confiscated laptop.

In an email to the Associated Press, his mother, Behnaz Hekmati, wrote that she and her husband are "shocked and terrified" by the verdict, which they believe was "the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair." She continued, "Amir is not a criminal. His very life is being exploited for political gain.... 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."

9:30 p.m., 19 Dey/January 9 "My son is no spy. He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," said Ali Hekmati, father of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, on Monday. In an interview with ABC News, the elder Hekmati, a professor of biology at Mott Community College in Michigan, continued, "I am absolutely afraid to death.... I don't know what they're going to do with him." ABC also reports that service records reveal no evidence that the former Marine ever received any intelligence training while a member of the U.S. armed forces:

Hekmati enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school in Flint, Mich., in 2001 and joined the infantry, completing basic training at Camp Pendleton in California. The 28-year-old briefly attended the Defense Language Institute for the Marines in Monterey, Calif., and his father told ABC News he worked as a translator, but records show Hekmati was officially a rifleman only. A Marine spokesperson said it was possible he could have served as a translator for his Marine unit in a more informal capacity.

Hekmati was deployed abroad where he was awarded a Combat Action Ribbon, which is given to Marines that at some point were in direct combat with the enemy, the records say.... [H]e completed his service in 2005 as a sergeant with a Good Conduct Medal.... Not a single time do the records mention any training in military intelligence.

The Obama administration meanwhile reacted sharply to the announcement of Hekmati's death sentence. "Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor. "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."

30735002-2118536.jpg4:12 p.m., 19 Dey/January 9 Iran's Revolutionary Court on Monday sentenced to death a 28-year-old former U.S. Marine on charges of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Iranian media. Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, born in Arizona to Iranian parents and raised in Michigan, was accused of moharebeh -- being an enemy of God.

During his trial, in late December, the prosecutor referred to Hekmati's trip to the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, and his access to classified information, and then his trip from Afghanistan to Iran. He also alleged that Hekmati had "confessed," which he reportedly repeated before the court. "The CIA told me to go to Bagram to collect information and then go to Iran and give it to the ministry and receive money for it," he said. "'After you return [to Washington], we will give you another mission.'"

Behnaz Hekmati, his mother, said that her son had gone to Iran to visit his grandmothers and has confessed only under pressure. His family said he had received permission from the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., to travel to Iran for the first time in his life. The family also said Iranian officials "urged our family to remain silent with the promise of an eventual release."

On December 18, Hekmati was shown on Iranian state television allegedly confessing to being part of a plot to infiltrate Iran's intelligence services for the CIA. Confessions form a central part of Iran's political and judicial system, according to the BBC. But human rights organizations strongly question their validity. Hekmati has 20 days to appeal.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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