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Iran court orders retrial for alleged CIA spy sentenced to death

Iran's Supreme Court on Monday overturned the death sentence of alleged US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] spy Amir Mirzaei Hekmati and ordered a retrial. The Supreme Court objected to the ruling and annulled it [ISNA report], sending it back to another branch for retrial. No other details were given by the spokesman for the judiciary. The decision comes after Hekmati, a former Marine, was sentenced to death [JURIST report] in early January on grounds of being a CIA spy and trying to link Iran with terrorism. The conviction was based largely on a confession offered by Hekmati that he then retracted, saying he was forced to make such a statement. The US has repeatedly demanded Hekmati's release, while his family contends that he was only in the country to visit his grandmother.

Preliminary hearings [JURIST report] for Hekmati began in late December. Leading evidence against Hekmati included the confession made on Iranian state television [Naharnet report] where he admitted his mission was to infiltrate Iran's intelligence systems by initially offering information to gain their trust and in order to find evidence that Iran was involved in terrorist activity [CNN report]. Hekmati told the court that he was fooled by the CIA and did not want to hurt Iran, according to a Fars News report [FNA report]. The US contends that the allegations against Hekmati are false and that his confessions were forced [AFP report].

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