Iran court sentences 'US spy' to death, confirms detention of British-Iranian anthropologist

Iran court sentences 'US spy' to death, confirms detention of British-Iranian anthropologist
Iran’s judiciary has sentenced an unnamed individual to death on spying charges, while admitting it has detained Iranian-British anthropologist Kameel Ahmady.
3 min read
01 October, 2019
Iran hands down heavy sentences for spying charges [Getty]

An Iranian court has sentenced an unnamed person to death on charges of spying for the United States, the country's judiciary said on Tuesday.

Tehran also confirmed the arrest of a British-Iranian anthropologist amid tensions with the US and Europe.

According to judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili, the individual sentenced to death has appealed and a final decision will be made by the appeals court. He did not provide further details on the case or the identity of the suspect.

Esmaili also confirmed authorities had detained Iranian-British anthropologist Kameel Ahmady over suspected links to institutes affiliated with foreign intelligence services. He said the case was in the initial investigation phase.

This was the first time Iran acknowledged Ahmady's arrest. His wife Shafagh Rahmani and activists had announced he was detained in August.

Ahmady is the latest dual national detained amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme.

President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the JCPOA accord last year which reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran's economy and threatens to break down an agreement which saw Tehran's nuclear programme tightly controlled. 

Iran has begun inching away from the accord, warning it will take further steps if Europe cannot guarantee Tehran the ability to sell its crude oil on the global market.

In August, Iran said it convicted a woman, Aras Amiri, who had worked for the British Council, a cultural and educational organisation, while allegedly spying on cultural activities in Iran.

Amiri has been jailed for the past year while her case was under investigation. She was sentenced to 10 years.

Another British-Iranian woman held in Tehran, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while traveling with her young daughter.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, was arrested in April 2016. Her sentence and her treatment while in prison have been widely criticised.

Iran does not recognise dual nationalities, cases involving which typically end up in closed-door hearings of Iran's Revolutionary Court, where former detainees say they had no opportunity to defend themselves against spying charges or offer evidence.

Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran long have said hard-liners in the Islamic Republic's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.

A UN panel in 2018 described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denied.

Esmaili also said on Tuesday the appeals court issued final decisions on two Iranians, identified as Ali Nafarieh and Mohammad Ali Babapour, sentencing them to ten years imprisonment on charges of spying for the US. 

Another man, Mohammad Aminnassab, was sentenced to 10 years on charges of spying for the UK.

Iran often hands down heavy sentences on similar charges. In August, three people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms over security and spying charges.

Hardliners in Iran view the country as fighting a cultural "soft war" against Westernisation, which they believe is attempting to transform Iran's Islamic beliefs.

In a further development an Iranian appeals court on Tuesday announced it had reduced the prison sentence of Hossein Fereidoun, brother of President Hassan Rouhani, over bribery charges, to five years from seven.

Iranian media had said in May he had been sentenced to an unspecified prison term for corruption.

Fereidoun, a close confidante of the president, was accused of financial misconduct dating back to 2016, in charges brought by hardliners who dominate the country's judiciary.

His trial began in February, and he has been free on bail since, spending a night in prison in 2017. Rouhani changed his surname from Fereidoun decades ago.

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