US Denies American Sentenced to Death in Iran Was Spying

Posted January 9th, 2012 at 3:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The White House is denying Iran's accusation that an American man sentenced to death by an Iranian court was spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that if the reports of the sentencing are true, the Obama administration “strongly condemns” the verdict against Amir Mirza Hekmati, an Iranian-American dual citizen.

Earlier, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said a court sentenced Hekmati to death for ties to the CIA and for cooperating with what it called a “hostile country.”

The 28-year old is a former U.S. Marine translator, born in the United States to Iranian immigrant parents. In December, Iranian state television broadcast video of Hekmati delivering a purported confession in Farsi and English.

Carney said said Iran has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, eliciting forced confessions and holding innocent Americans for political reasons.

The U.S. government is calling on Tehran to grant Hekmati access to legal counsel and to release the man “without delay.”

In the video, Hekmati said he was specially trained and served at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before being sent on a mission to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence ministry. Iranian news reports say he was detained in August or September last year.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said neither the United States nor the Swiss government, which represents U.S. interests in Iran, have been able to see or speak to Hekmati. But she said Washington is working through the Swiss to confirm Iranian media reports about Hekmati's sentencing.

“If it is true that he has been so sentenced, we would condemn this verdict in the strongest terms, and we are working with all of our partners to convey that condemnation to the Iranian government. We have maintained from the beginning that the charges against him are a fabrication, and we call on the Iranian government to release him immediately.”