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US asks Iran to immediately release Hekmati

January 11, 2012 10:32 IST

The United States has condemned the death sentence handed to American-Iranian ex-Marine Amir Mirzai Hekmati in Iran and asked Tehran to release him immediately.

An Iranian court has sentenced to death Hekmati, a 28-year-old former US Marine born in the US to an Iranian family, for cooperating with a hostile nation, membership of the Central Intelligence Agency and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism.

"The allegations against Hekmati are false. This is not the first time, though we could only hope it would be the last, that the Iranians have falsely accused people of being spies," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"We urge his immediate release, and are working towards that end and hope that it happens soon," Carney told reporters. At another briefing, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland too made a similar appeal.

"We call on the Government of Iran to respect the rights -- the fact that he is a US citizen and grant the Swiss protecting power access to him," she said. The United States, she said, has been able to confirm the verdict, the Swiss protecting power has now been able to confirm to us the verdict.

"So we strongly condemn the death sentence verdict given to Hekmati. We've conveyed our condemnation to the Iranian government through the Swiss protecting power," she said.

"We maintain, as we have from the beginning, that these charges against him are a fabrication. We call on the Iranian authorities to release him immediately. We've also called on them to allow him to have legal counsel. Defendants in Iran are allowed to appeal within 20 days," Nuland said.
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