The United States has called for the immediate release of Amir Mirza Hekmati, a U.S. citizen of Iranian background, who has been arrested in Iran on spying charges.
AFP reports that U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has also called for immediate access to Hekmati through the Swiss Embassy in Iran.
The Swiss Embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran since the U.S. embassy in Tehran was closed in 1979.
On Sunday night, Iranian television aired the “confessions” of Amir Mirza Kejmati, who admitted to being a CIA agent working for the U.S. government and entering Iran to advance U.S. espionage plots.
Iran alleges that Hekmati underwent special training in Afghanistan and then entered Iran to feed "false information" to Iranian intelligence. Hekmati’s father, Ali Hekmati, told the Associated Press that his son had gone to Iran to visit his grandmother and that he has “never worked for the CIA.”
The detainee’s father said: “He is not a spy. They have said a bunch of lies about my good son. My son is a professor of microbiology in Detroit.”
According to his father, Amir Hekmati previously had worked as an Arabic translator for the U.S. Marines.
He added that he and his wife had tried to dissuade Amir Hekmati from travelling to Iran but to no avail. “The first two weeks went without any problems, and then on the third week he was visited by a few people and then he disappeared,” Hekmati’s father said.
Amir Hekmati, who was born in Arizona and joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from high school, was arrested in September according to his family.
Ali Hekmati said he is trying to contact lawyers in Iran to take on his son’s case.
Before Hekmati appeared on Iranian television on Sunday, the Tehran Prosecutor had announced that officials had arrested 15 people charged with spying against the Islamic Republic. It is not clear if Hekmati was counted among them.
Iranian intelligence contends that its agents followed Hekmati after he entered Iran and arrested him as soon as his “spying mission” began.