Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the former American Marine imprisoned in Iran after being convicted of espionage for the CIA, has been sentenced to death, the New York Times is reporting. The sentence comes as the relations between the U.S. and Iran over the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program becomes aggressive.

The details surrounding Hekmati’s case has been shrouded in secrecy since he was detained in August 2011 in Iran. Iranian officials didn’t even confirm he was in the country until December. While the C.I.A. has declined to comment on the case, the White House has even denied that Hekmati was a spy, and called for his immediate release.

Hekmati’s family has insisted that he traveled to the country to visit his grandparents. His parents, Behnaz and Ali, released a statement saying they were “shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death.” The two also denied their son was a spy, and added “We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair. His very life is being exploited for political gain.”

Hekmati was the first American suspected of spaying in 33 years to not have been released after bail money was paid. Iranian media portrayed his prosecution as just, saying he had admitted to investigators that he had been sent by the C.I.A. after nearly a decade of training. They added he was assigned to infiltrate the Intelligence Ministry.

The death sentence can be appealed within 20 days. Iranian experts in the U.S. feel that the sentence will never be carried out, however.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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