Amir Mirza Hekmati was sentenced to death by an Iranian court on Monday, on espionage charges. Iran has accused Hekmati of spying for the CIA.
The United States has denied that Hekmati is a spy and has said the charges are politically motivated. The charges have created fresh tension between the two feuding countries, as it they come at a time when there is rising temperature between the Washington and Tehran.
The U.S. is looking to toughen up sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program. Iran has responded with military threats and has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has also warned a U.S. aircraft carrier about entering the waterway.
According to the National Post, Iran has accused Hekmati of training with the U.S. military as a spy. That report noted that a televised confession was aired in which he said he worked for a New York-based video game company that design games to manipulate public opinion in the Middle East on U.S. intelligence behalf.
The National Post also noted that ISNA news agency quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei as saying, The court found him Corrupt on the Earth and Mohareb [one who wages war on God]. Hekmati can appeal to the Supreme Court.
Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman of the U.S. Department of State on Monday, said the department is aware of the press report on the sentencing, but haven't been able to independently confirm it. The department is now working through the Swiss protecting power in Tehran to confirm the sentence, she said.
We have also not been able to be in contact with him, nor has the Swiss protecting power despite the fact that the Swiss have asked numerous times for access to him and are asking, obviously, again today, Nuland said. 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've maintained from the beginning that the charges against him were a fabrication, and we call on the Iranian government to release him immediately.
Nuland said America has been having troubling or decades with Iranians seizing Americans and falsely imprisoning them, holding them for long periods, trying them in inappropriate circumstances.
So this is not a new tactic on the part of the Iranian government, she said. I would simply say that these particular proceedings were conducted in secret, there was inadequate legal counsel, we obviously dismiss the accusations one way or the other, we believe that any confession he may have made was clearly coerced. So it's just par for the course in terms of the non-justice in the Iranian system.
Here are eight facts you should know about Amir Mirza Hekmati as friends and family have told various news outlets:
- Hekmati is a 28-year-old Michigan man.
- He is a former U.S. Marine and he is of Iranian decent.
- He served in the U.S. Marine as an Arabic language translator and linguist.
- He was born in Arizona and holds dual citizenship.
- He worked for government contractor BAE, but not on anything that's regarding Iran, his friend and former colleague Chase Winter told the media. They worked together for BAE in a Kansas office in 2010 before Hekmati resigned and took up another job offer.
- BAE Systems said Hekmati worked for the company as a research manager in its Support Solutions business from March to August 2010.
- He is an avid weight lifter, according to Winter.
- Hekmati's father is a biology professor.
You can watch the video Iran aired below: