Iranian Court Sentences One Person to Death for Spying for the CIA

An Iranian court has sentenced an individual to death on charges of spying for the U.S., the country's judiciary has revealed.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Tuesday that two Iranians, Ali Nafarieh and Mohammad Ali Babapour, have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on charges of spying for the U.S., The Associated Press reported.

He did not identify the person sentenced to death as the verdict has been appealed and a final decision will be made by the appeals court.

Another man, Mohammad Aminnassab, was sentenced to 10 years on charges of spying for Britain, Esmaili said.

It is not known if any of the convicted individuals were among the 17 Iranians arrested on charges of spying for the CIA by Iran's intelligence ministry earlier this year, reported the BBC.

The ministry alleged that the arrested individuals had been gathering information on Iran's nuclear and military sites for the CIA, AP said in July.

President Donald Trump ridiculed the allegations, writing on Twitter at the time: "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."

iran president hassan rouhani united nations
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations in New York on September 25. Iran's judiciary has convicted three people on charges of spying for the U.S. and sentenced one of them to death. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Esmaili also confirmed the arrest of an 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 has acknowledged Ahmady's arrest. His wife Shafagh Rahmani reported he was detained in August.

Ahmady has been held in solitary confinement since being arrested in Tehran on August 11, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Rahmani said the charges against her husband are based on his research on societal issues, including child marriage and female genital mutilation.

She said she was allowed to visit her husband in the presence of agents for the first time on September 8.

"Kameel could not speak freely [in front of the agents]," Rahmani told CHRI.

"He said the charges against him are based on his research, even though all his work had been published with permission from the Islamic Guidance Ministry."

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

President Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from an Obama-era accord last year and imposed sanctions, crippling Iran's economy.

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 while allegedly spying on cultural activities in Iran.

The British Council is a non-political organization that works in education, arts and culture.

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 has been widely criticized.

Iran often hands down harsh sentences on similar charges.

Three people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms over security and spying charges in August.

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

Also on Tuesday, Esmaili said an appeals court had reduced the prison sentence of Hossein Fereidoun, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani, over bribery charges, to five years from seven.

He had been sentenced to an unspecified prison term for corruption, Iranian media reported in May.

Fereidoun, a close confidante of the president, was accused of financial misconduct dating back to 2016, in charges brought by hard-liners 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.