TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Iranian government has criticized a U.S. court's decision to sentence an engineer with dual citizenship to more than eight years in prison for trying to send sensitive military documents to Iran, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.
IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying "the sentence for Mozaffar Khazaee is totally unfair."
Khazaee was sentenced Friday to more than eight years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for trying to send hundreds of sensitive U.S. military documents to Iran as he applied for teaching jobs at state-run universities there.
He was accused of seeking to export 1,500 documents containing trade secrets and 600 documents with sensitive defense technology. Prosecutors said Khazaee stole and shared with contacts in Iran materials related to the Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the F-22 Raptor and other U.S. military jet engine programs.
Khazaee, a former employee of defense contractors including Pratt & Whitney, pleaded guilty in February to violating the Arms Export Control Act. The 61-year-old asked for leniency, writing in a letter to the judge from a Rhode Island detention center that he was remorseful.
Iran has said there are 19 Iranians in U.S. custody charged with violating U.S.-imposed sanctions. It was not immediately clear if Khazaee is one of the 19.
Iranian officials have hinted at a possible prisoner exchange involving the release of Americans held in Iran, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, a dual citizen who has been detained for more than a year on espionage charges and was recently convicted in a verdict not yet made public.
However, Iran's judiciary has rejected the idea of an exchange.