10 Jan 2012

Iran sentences US-Iranian man to death

10:13 am on 10 January 2012

Iran's Revolutionary Court has sentenced an Iranian-American man to death for spying for the CIA.

Amir Mirza Hekmati, a 28-year-old of Iranian descent who was born in Arizona, was arrested in December when visiting relatives in Iran.

The United States denies that Mr Hekmati is a spy and has demanded his immediate release. The White House said it was trying to verify the report on his sentencing.

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

The country's highest court must confirm all death sentences. It is not yet known when it will rule in Mr Hekmati's case.

The sentence is likely to aggravate US-Iranian tensions, already high because of Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

Western nations have recently expanded punitive economic sanctions against Iran over suspicions it is trying to develop atomic bombs under the cover of a civilian atomic energy program. The Islamic Republic denies this.

Iran also said on Monday it had broken up an alleged US-linked spy network that planned to "fuel unrest" before the March parliamentary election, the first nationwide vote since the country's 2009 disputed presidential vote.