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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2012

Conviction in Iranian spy case tossed out

Ex-GI faced death; new trial ordered


TEHRAN — The Supreme Court of Iran has tossed out the death penalty conviction of a retired U.S. Marine accused of spying and ordered a retrial in a separate court, Iranian news services reported Monday.

The reports, carried by the Iranian Students’ News Agency and the Fars News agency, which have close ties to the government, quoted a state prosecutor as saying that shortcomings had been found in the case against Amir Hekmati and that a new trial would be held.

Mr. Hekmati, 28, was sentenced to death in January, the first American to receive a death penalty since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Mr. Hekmati was born in Arizona and grew up in Michigan. His relatives live in Flint, and his parents are of Iranian origin.

The Hekmati case has become a source of friction between the United States and Iran, coming against the backdrop of their increasing confrontation over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

It was unclear whether the Supreme Court’s ruling represented a political decision in the Iranian hierarchy to offer a diplomatic gesture.

The short Iranian news reports also mentioned that in Mr. Hekmati’s first trial, he said he had been tricked by the United States into spying for the CIA but that he had never meant to harm Iran.

The White House and the State Department have denied that Mr. Hekmati was a spy. He served in the Marines for four years after graduating from high school. He was detained in August, but his arrest was not made public until December.

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