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Middle East
Iran court 'overturns' US national's sentence
Case of ex-soldier Amir Mirzai Hekmati, handed a death sentence in January for spying, sent back for retrial.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2012 18:12

Hekmati's father says his son was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested in January [Reuters]

Iran's supreme court has overturned a death sentence for spying handed down to a former US soldier, the state-run ISNA news agency reports quoting a senior judiciary official.

Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a 28-year-old former member of the Marine Corps, was sentenced to death on January 9 by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran after he was accused of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

"The sentence was overturned by the supreme court ... The case has been sent back" to the court for retrial, ISNA quoted Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, prosecutor general, on Monday as saying.

The report did not provide further details.

Hekmati, born in the US to an Iranian immigrant family, holds Iranian nationality. He was "sentenced to death for co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism", according to Iranian media.

His father, a professor at a community college in Flint, Michigan, has said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.

The New York Times reported in February that his mother was able to meet him in prison.

Hekmati was shown on Iranian state television in December saying in Farsi and English that he was an operative for the CIA sent to infiltrate Iran's intelligence ministry.

The US has called for the release of Hekmati, with US officials saying the allegation he was sent by the CIA to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence ministry was false.

Access denied

The state department has said Iran did not permit diplomats from the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, to see Hekmati before or during his trial.

Iran, which often accuses its foes of trying to destabilise its Islamic system, said in May it had arrested 30 people on suspicion of spying for the US and later 15 people were indicted for spying for the US and Israel.

On December 18, Iran's state TV broadcast video of Hekmati delivering a purported confession.

In a statement released the same day, Iran's intelligence ministry said its agents had identified Hekmati at Bagram airbase in neighbouring Afghanistan. Bagram is the main base for US and other international forces outside Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The Marine Corps subsequently said "Amir Nema Hekmati" served between 2001 and 2005, including one deployment to Iraq in 2004 and a stint at the military language institute in Monterey, California.

The Corps said its records did not indicate any deployment to Afghanistan. It was not clear why the middle name was listed differently.

It is not clear exactly when Hekmati was arrested, although Iranian news reports have said he was detained in late August or early September.

At the time of his trip to Iran, Hekmati had been working in Qatar as a contractor for a company "that served the marines", his father said, without providing specific details.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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