Iran sentences ‘CIA spies’ to death after claiming to have broken surveillance ring

Capital punishment announcement comes month after claims by Iranian intelligence of dismantling ‘big spy network’

Harry Cockburn,Richard Hall
Monday 22 July 2019 09:20
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Iran's state TV releases video from on-board British-flagged tanker seized by Tehran

Iran has captured 17 people it claims were spies working for the CIA and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media has reported.

State television quoted the Iranian intelligence ministry as saying it had broken up a “CIA spying ring” and captured 17 suspects.

A ministry official said some of those arrested had been sentenced to death, according to the country’s semi-official Fars news agency.

A statement read on state television said: “The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas... where they collected classified information.”

The announcement comes amid deteriorating relationships between Iran and western nations including the US and UK.

On Monday, Theresa May will chair an emergency security meeting to discuss how to respond to Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The meeting will also discuss how to secure shipping in the sensitive region, which is considered a vital oil supply route.

US President Donald Trump hit out at Iran's claims regarding the alleged CIA ring on Monday, calling the reports “totally false.”

“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, also dismissed the reports, while declining to comment on any specific cases.

“The Iranian regime has a long history of lying ... I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions that they’ve taken,” he told Fox News.

It is not immediately clear if the arrests are linked to claims by Iran last month of having dismantled a “big spy network” tied to the CIA.

In June, the Iranian intelligence ministry said it had identified the spies after discovering an online communication system used by the CIA to operate the network, according to a report on the state-run IRNA agency.

A documentary broadcast over the weekend by the state-owned Press TV detailed the “mole hunt” to catch the 17 alleged spies.

The documentary on the English-language channel suggested the CIA set up a network inside Iran using “fake companies” which offered US visas to Iranians and an “ideal life abroad”.

Those companies were used to recruit agents, who were used to collection information for the US.

The programme interviewed one of the alleged CIA spies, who said a man named Steve from the US embassy in the United Arab Emirates offered to give him money to set up a business in Tehran in order to monitor the country’s trade.

The “moles” recruited by the CIA were given “training courses on espionage” abroad, the documentary suggested.

The programme described the CIA operation as an “undeclared war”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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