There was the usual televised confession - no doubt wrung out of the poor unfortunate under threat or actual torture or worse. But it seems a stretch that this guy was working for American intelligence.
Iranian authorities allege that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, received special training at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before being dispatched on a spy mission in Iran. Mirzaei, 28, was born in Arizona but holds dual citizenship.
Mirzaei has 20 days to appeal the court's decision, which comes at a time of increasing tensions between Tehran and Washington. The U.S. is pursuing tough sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, and a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and mysterious explosions at military and industrial sites have prompted Iran to keep closer tabs on dual nationals visiting the country.
Precisely when and where Mirzaei was arrested is unclear. Iranian news reports have said he was detained in late August or early September, according to the Associated Press. Mirzaei's family members, who live in Michigan, have reportedly said he was in Iran to visit his grandmother.
Mirzaei appeared on Iranian state television in December and purportedly confessed to working for the CIA. It is unclear whether the statements were made under duress.
He actually confessed to working "for a New York-based video game company designing games to manipulate public opinion in the Middle East on behalf of U.S. intelligence," reports Reuters. I think the Iranians watch too many western spy movies. That seems highly unlikely.
With tensions rising, it may be difficult to secure the young man's release. It is doubtful that Iran will show any more "humanitarian gestures" like they did with the American hikers freed last fall who were also convicted of espionage.
So the question is, what the Iranians are going to want in return for releasing him. It is probable the price for Mirzaei's freedom will be too high for the US government to pay.