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Iran Dismisses Death Sentence for 'CIA Spy'

Iran's highest court has said Arizona-born Amir Mirza Hekmati will not be put to death for espionage as ordered by a lower court
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/5/2012, 10:23 PM

Mohammad Najjar
Mohammad Najjar
Reuters

Iran's supreme court on Monday dismissed an execution sentence passed by a revolutionary court against an Iranian-American national accused of spying for the CIA.

"The supreme court nullified the execution sentence against Amir Mirza Hekmati and sent it to an affiliate court," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei was quoted as saying by state-run media.

Iran's Interior Minister Mohammad Najjar confirmed for the AFP the sentence against Hekmati had been dismissed.

Najjar did not indicate whether Hekmati's sentence had been commuted, or whether a lower court would have to re-sentence him, however.

Hekmati, a 28-year-old Iranian-American born in Arizona, was arrested last December by Iran's Intelligence Ministry who accused him of receiving training at US bases in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq.

Iran's judiciary said Hekmati admitted to having links with the CIA, but denied any intention of harming Iran.

Regional observers say Iran, while seeking to score a propaganda victory with Hekmati's conviction, does not want to ignite tensions with Washington over its nuclear program.

Hekmati graduated from a Michigan high school. His father Ali is a professor at a community college in Flint, Michigan.

Iran, which often accuses its foes of trying to destabilize its Islamic system, said in May it had arrested 30 people on suspicion of spying for the United States. Later, 15 people were indicted for spying for Washington and Israel.

The State Department has said Iran did not permit diplomats from the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran, to see Hekmati before or during his trial.

Iran and the United States have had no relations since Tehran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian revolutionaries held 52 American hostages for 444 days in the US embassy from 4 November 1979 to 21 January 1981.

The incident led to a breakdown in relations between Washington and Tehran. Mutual antagonism has dominated US-Iranian relations ever since.