White House seeks to verify reports on Iran death sentence

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 09, 2012 12:04 PM
White House seeks to verify reports on Iran death sentence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday it is aware of reports that an Iranian court has sentenced American citizen Amir Mirza Hekmati to death and is working to verify them.

"If true, we strongly condemn such a verdict and will work with our partners to convey our condemnation to the Iranian government," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

Hekmati, a 28-year-old former U.S. military translator, is an Iranian-American dual citizen who was arrested last month. Iran accuses him of being a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Iran has aired a television confession - denounced by Washington - in which Hekmati said he worked for a New York-based video company designing games to manipulate public opinion in the Middle East on behalf of U.S. intelligence.

The United States denies Hekmati is a spy and has demanded his immediate release.

"Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false," Vietor said. "The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons."

The White House urged Iran to grant Hekmati access to legal counsel and to "release him without delay."

(Reporting By Caren Bohan; Editing by Sandra Maler)