Iran has arrested 17 Iranian nationals it alleged to have been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to spy on Iran’s nuclear and military sites. Some of these alleged spies have already been sentenced to death.

Reuters reported that the Iranian state television published images purported to show CIA officers who were in contact with the suspected spies. 

The Ministry of Intelligence said in a statement read on state television that the spies were arrested during the Iranian calendar year that ended in March 2019. 

The statement alleged that the spies worked in and collected classified information from sensitive and important private sector centers including those in economic, nuclear, infrastructure, military and cyber areas.

An Iranian intelligence official also revealed during a press conference in Tehran on Monday that some of the alleged spies who are now in custody have been sentenced to death, albeit he did not reveal the number of those who will receive the capital punishment. Some will be subjected to long term imprisonment.

"Those who deliberately betrayed the country were handed to the judiciary... some were sentenced to death and some to long-term imprisonment,” he said, according to AFP.

The official did not give his name, but he was identified as the counterespionage department director of Iran's Intelligence Ministry.  

The official said that those who were recruited into the spy network fell into a visa trip set by the CIA for Iranians who want to travel to the United States 

Some were allegedly approached by the CIA while they were applying for a visa, while others were pressured of the CIA while seeking to renew their visas. 

The official added that the mission was to collect classified information and conduct intelligence and technical operations at important and sensitive centers using advanced equipment. He added that none had succeeded in their sabotage missions. 

"All of the network's members, all the 17 people, were trained by CIA officers on how to set up safe communications,” the official said. 

CIA logo Some of the 17 spies have been sentenced to death. Some will be subjected to long term imprisonment. Their mission was allegedly to collect classified information and conduct intelligence and technical operations. Photo: Reuters

Last month, Iran said it dismantled a spy network associated with the CIA following clues in the American intelligence services. State news agency IRNA said at the time that Iran carried out the operation with the help of foreign allies.

It isn’t clear if the recent announcement is linked to the same case.