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Iran Upholds Death Sentence For Man Accused Of Giving Nuclear Secrets To CIA

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

Iran's Supreme Court has affirmed a death sentence for a man accused of giving secrets about the country's nuclear program to the CIA, a government spokesman announced Tuesday.

"Amir Rahimpour who spied for the CIA and received huge amounts of money and attempted to provide the U.S. intelligence service with a part of Iran's nuclear information was tried and had been sentenced to death," judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli said at a news conference in Tehran, according to Iran's semiofficial FARS News Agency.

Esmayeeli said the sentence will be carried out "soon" but did not provide an exact date or any other details.

"It's the first Iranian death sentence for spying on behalf of America in nearly a decade," NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul.

Rahimpour holds a master's degree in electrical engineering and has been incarcerated in Evin Prison since at least last fall, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran. Evin Prison is notorious for holding political detainees, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was held there for 544 days.

The public announcement is the latest salvo in Iran's dispute with the United States, which ratcheted up after President Trump abandoned an international nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018. Last month, a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian commander and Iran retaliated with missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing American personnel.

Iran has made numerous claims of counterintelligence coups against the U.S. in recent years.

Last April, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi announced that his agency had disrupted CIA operations by identifying 290 spies operating in Iran and other countries. He said Iran had shared that information with other nations. And last June, Iran said it "dismantled" a CIA espionage network – a claim that a U.S. official denied.

Last July, Iran's Intelligence Ministry said it had detained 17 Iranians, accusing them of spying for the U.S. Trump said the announcement was "totally false."

In announcing Rahimpour's death sentence, the Iranian judiciary spokesman added that two other Iranians also have been punished for espionage, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

"They did their spying activities in form of charity organizations; they were sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for espionage and another five years for acting against security," IRNA reports.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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