'CIA spy' sentenced to death in Iran as second suspect accused of helping British intelligence agencies jailed for 10 years

Tehran's judiciary also confirms arrest of British-Iranian academic Kameel Ahmady

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 09 October 2019 11:02
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A prison guard walks by an inmate at the infamous Evin prison, north of Tehran, where several British citizens are reportedly being held on spying charges
A prison guard walks by an inmate at the infamous Evin prison, north of Tehran, where several British citizens are reportedly being held on spying charges

Iranian courts have sentenced an alleged CIA spy to death and jailed a second person for 10 years for purportedly working with UK intelligence agencies.

Two others have been sentenced to a decade in prison for allegedly spying for the US, said the Middle Eastern country’s judiciary, which also confirmed the arrest of a British-Iranian anthropologist.

The announcement of the verdicts came amid spiralling tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Relations have continued to worsen since Donald Trump’s administration pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which his predecessor Barack Obama had agreed with the United Nations security council.

The US also reimposed sanctions which have plunged Iran into economic crisis.

It was not immediately clear if any of the cases were linked to Iran’s announcement in July that it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili did not give any details about the person sentenced to death.

But he said the suspect had appealed and a final decision on their sentence would be made by the appeals court.

Mohammad Amin-Nasab has been jailed for 10 years for aiding British intelligence services. Ali Nefriyeh and Mohammad Ali Babapour were each sentenced to the same prison term for allegedly spying for the CIA.

Mr Esmaili also acknowledged for the first time that authorities had detained British-Iranian academic Kameel Ahmady.

The anthropologist’s wife Shafagh Rahmani said in August that he had been arrested at their home in Tehran and was being held on unknown charges.

Mr Ahmady – who has been a UK citizen for 25 years - is an internationally renowned expert on female circumcision and has written about issues often controversial in Iran, such as women’s rights and child marriage.

Iran said he had been detained over suspected links to institutes affiliated with foreign intelligence services and the case was in its initial investigation phase.

He is the latest of several dual British national to be incarcerated over spying accusations in Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is thought to be being held in the same prison as Mr Ahmady, was jailed for five years in April 2016. She has repeatedly gone on hunger strike as she campaigns for release.

British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Cambridge-educated academic who now lectures in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, was jailed for 10 years earlier this year. She had published work on the 2011 Arab uprisings and authoritarian governments and was reportedly visiting Iran for a conference at a university.

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Aras Amiri, an Iranian citizen who works for the British Council, was also jailed for a decade in August.

Iran, which does not recognise dual nationalities, often hands down heavy sentences on similar charges. Hardliners in Iran view the country as fighting a cultural "soft war" against westernisation, which they believe is attempting to transform the country’s Islamic beliefs.

The UK Foreign Office has yet to comment on the judiciary’s announcements.

Mr Esmaili said an appeals court had also reduced the prison sentence of Hossein Fereidoun, brother of president Hassan Rouhani, from seven years to five years. He was sentenced in May for bribery.

Mr 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 only a night in prison in 2017.

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