Daily Israel Report

Iranian Spy Deported from US to Tehran - Swapped for Hikers?

The United States has deported a convicted Iranian spy back to Tehran in a possible unspoken swap deal. Israel's Pollard is still in prison.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 3/21/2012, 1:45 PM

Hikers (illustrative)
Hikers (illustrative)
Flash 90

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department confirmed Tuesday that a convicted Iranian spy as deported last week back to Tehran.

Spokesman Noel Clay said Ardebili, 38, found guilty of arms smuggling, had completed his prison term – a five-year sentence handed down in a U.S. District Court in Delaware.

Amir Hossein Ardebili pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to ship sensitive American military technology to Iran. Court papers indicated the spy worked as a procurement agent for the Islamic Republic and acquired thousands of components. The charges to which he admitted his guilt included conspiracy, smuggling, arms export control violations and money laundering.

U.S. agents had been tracking the Iranian spy as early as 2007.

Although there was no mention of the case by the State Department, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad apparently linked Ardebili's case to that of the three American hikers who were picked up and held hostage in Iran in 2009, according to a report by the Associated Press. One hostage was released after 14 months; the other two were held for more than two years.

Clay denied the claim at Tuesday's State Department briefing, however, saying, “We don't see any link between this case and cases involving the unjust detention of U.S. citizens in Iran.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Pollard remains in prison. He was convicted and sentenced to life in jail without parole on a single charge of passing classified information to an allied nation – Israel – more than 26 years ago. During his incarceration, he spent more than a decade in solitary confinement under harsh conditions that led to permanent medical damage.

Under the Obama administration, he was refused a 24-hour leave to visit his dying father, even under heavy guard; nor was he allowed to then attend his father's funeral after he died.

Pollard, an Israeli citizen, remains in prison and is currently in very poor health. Despite hundreds of appeals by national and international figures at all levels every American president, including Barack Obama has refused to commute his sentence to time served.