An Iranian court handed down a death sentence yesterday for Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a 28-year-old Iranian–American man, for allegedly spying for the CIA.
Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq as an Arabic language translator, was born in Arizona, raised in Michigan, and traveled to Iran to visit his grandmother. The U.S. State Department has denied that he is a spy, accused Iran of once again pressing false charges against an American citizen, and called for his release.
Hekmati’s parents said that they were “shocked and terrified” by Iran’s decision to prosecute their son, whom they denied ever worked for the CIA. He had sought and received the permission of the Iranian interests section in Washington, D.C., to travel to Iran. His parents said that he had been arrested in August, but they had kept quiet about it after Iranian officials urged them to do so to facilitate his release. Hekmati is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, but Tehran does not recognize dual citizens, considering them to be only Iranian citizens.
Hekmati now has 20 days to appeal the sentence under Iranian law. Iran’s rogue government has opportunistically arrested several Americans in recent years and exploited them for propaganda purposes. Three American hikers who strayed across the Iraqi border were jailed in Iran as spies in 2009 before being freed in 2010 and 2011 in what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called a humanitarian gesture. An Iranian–American sentenced to eight years for spying in 2009 was freed after 100 days. But Hekmati faces a more difficult future because of rising Iran–U.S. tensions generated by Iran’s continued defiance on the nuclear issue and its foiled to plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in a Washington, D.C., restaurant.
Hekmati’s sentence was announced on the same day that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, declared that Tehran would not yield to international pressure to halt its nuclear program: “Sanctions imposed on Iran by our enemies will not have any impact on our nation.” Iranian officials quickly put his words into action by initiating uranium enrichment operations at a new installation carved out of a mountain near Qum and hardened against a possible attack.
The intensifying war of nerves being waged over Iran’s nuclear program is becoming increasingly dangerous. Hekmati has now become another innocent hostage of a ruthless regime that holds 60 million other Iranians hostage to its totalitarian Islamist goals.