The White House is denying that an American man sentenced to death by an Iranian court Monday on charges of spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was engaged in espionage.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor 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 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 TV broadcast video of Hekmati delivering a purported confession in Farsi and English.
Vietor said allegations that Hekmati worked for the CIA or was sent to Iran by the agency are false. He said Iran has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, eliciting forced confessions and holding innocent Americans for political reasons. He said Washington calls 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.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.