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Iran Hands Down Death Sentence to 'Israeli Spy' Print E-mail

By News Agencies

ImageA court has sentenced an Iranian man to death on charges of spying for Israel, Iranian media said on Monday.

Monday's report identified the convicted as Ali Ashtari, a 45-year-old tradesman in electronic merchandise who supplied military, security and defense centers across the country with electronic devices.

Iran state television quoted an unnamed official as saying Ashtari relayed sensitive information on military, defense and research centers to Israel's Mossad intelligence officers.

The material reportedly included information on Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. The official also said Ashtari, who was arrested in 2007, tried to create a link between Iranian experts and Israeli agents. Ashtari has 20 days to appeal.

"I apologize to the Iranian people and to any organization which has been damaged because of my acts and I request Islamic clemency," the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted 43-year-old Ashtari as telling the court in Tehran.

Ashtari said he had accepted a loan of 50,000 Euros from Israeli agents as he had been in financial straits, Fars reported.

The sentence comes at a time of increased tension between Israel and Iran and speculation of a possible Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear installations.

"Ali Ashtari, who had been accused of spying for the Zionist state and charged with engaging in espionage for (Israel's) Mossad intelligence service, has been given the death sentence," the ISNA news agency said.

Iranian media had said Ashtari was put on trial on Saturday. But an official in Israel's foreign ministry on the same day said Israel was not familiar with the case.

The ruling against Ashtari was the first time since 2000 that an Iranian court sentenced an Iranian citizen on the charge of espionage for Israel.

A closed-door trial in 2000 found 10 Iranian Jews guilty of spying for Israel and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. The convicts were released later, before serving out their sentences in full.

Ashtari's conviction comes amid renewed demands for the international
community to step up diplomatic pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities.

Israel alongside the U.S. and many Western countries claims Iran's nuclear program is intended to produce nuclear weapons - which Iran denies, saying its program is for peaceful purposes, including electricity production.

 

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