Iran sentences man to death for spying for Israel

The Tehran court handed down its sentence at a time of high tension between Israel and the Islamic Republic amid speculation of a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations.

Iran sentences man to death for spying for Israel
An Iranian court on Monday sentenced to death an Iranian businessman on charges of spying for Israel after a two-day trial, media said.

The Tehran court handed down its sentence at a time of high tension between Israel and the Islamic Republic amid speculation of a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations.

Iranian media identified Ali Ashtari as the manager of a company selling communications and security equipment to Iran's government.

He was accused of "engaging in espionage for (Israel's) Mossad intelligence service," the ISNA news agency said. He had confessed and asked for clemency.

"I apologise to the Iranian people and to any organisation 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 from Israeli agents as he had been in financial straits, Fars said. He was detained a year and a half ago.

His name indicated he was a Shi'ite Muslim but Iranian media did not specify his religion. The media reports did not say whether he would appeal against the sentence.

Israeli government officials declined to comment on the issue on Monday. On Saturday, an official in Israel's Foreign Ministry said it was not familiar with the case.

Iran, which does not recognise Israel, has previously reported breaking up spy networks and accused the United States and Zionists of trying to destabilise the country.

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In 2000, 10 Jews from the city of Shiraz were convicted of spying in a closed door trial that sparked international outrage. The last five detained were released in 2003.

Fars quoted Ashtari as telling the court that three Israeli agents had presented themselves to him as foreign bank representatives looking for a commercial partnership.

Meetings with the agents, two of whom were called Jack and Tony, took place in Thailand and Turkey and they provided him with a laptop computer for coded communication as well as satellite phones, the news agency said.

Fars said Ashtari's company had branches in Tehran, Dubai and in a third country it did not name.

Speculation of an Israeli attack on Iran has risen since a U.S. newspaper reported this month that the Jewish state had practiced such a strike against the Iran's nuclear facilities.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

Israel is believed to be the only Middle Eastern state with nuclear arms.

The standoff between the West and Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, has been a factor pushing oil prices to record highs. Crude hit a record level on international markets near $143 a barrel on Friday.

Reuters
Last Mod: 30 Haziran 2008, 13:06
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