A grab taken from a video aired by the official Iranian state TV in December 2011 shows a photo of Amir Mirzai Hekmati
A grab taken from a video aired by the official Iranian state TV in December 2011 shows a photo of Amir Mirzai Hekmati, an Iranian American sentenced to death in Iran on allegations he worked for the CIA. Hekmati's mother was able to see her son as the United States pressed for consular access to him. © - AFP/Iranian TV
A grab taken from a video aired by the official Iranian state TV in December 2011 shows a photo of Amir Mirzai Hekmati
AFP
Last updated: February 23, 2012

Mother sees US man on death row in Iran

The mother of an Iranian American sentenced to death in Iran on allegations he worked for the CIA was able to see her son as the United States pressed Wednesday for consular access to him.

Iran last month handed a death sentence to Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a 28-year-old former Marine of Iranian descent. His family has insisted he went to Iran to see family and was not involved in espionage.

The New York Times reported that mother Benhaz Hekmati traveled alone to Tehran on January 28 to visit her son and managed to see him three times in prison for an hour each time before returning to the United States.

In a statement to newspapers, the mother said that Iranian officials were "hospitable" and "respectful."

"While he is disappointed by the circumstances he finds himself in, he is hopeful that the truth will be known and he will be able to come home very soon," she said of her son.

Eric Volz, a spokesman for the family, referred to the article in The New York Times and declined further comment.

The State Department has provided consular assistance to the family, spokesman Mark Toner said. The United States has sought access to Hekmati through Swiss diplomats, who represent US interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations, but to no avail, Toner said.

"We continue to press to have access to him as an American citizen," Toner told reporters.

Amir Hekmati was shown on Iranian state television in December saying in Farsi and English that he was an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency sent to infiltrate Iran's intelligence ministry.

The case comes amid high tensions between Iran and the United States over the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear program, which Western nations and Israel say is an attempt to build an atomic bomb.

Iran has detained and released a number of Americans after imprisoning them, although there is no precedent for a death sentence.

In 2009, three Americans who said they were innocent hikers were detained in Iran on spying charges. All three were eventually released, one in 2010 and the other two in September 2011, despite being sentenced to eight years in prison.

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