Iran’s Supreme Court has tossed out the death penalty conviction of a former U.S. Marine accused of spying and ordered a retrial in a separate court, Iranian news services reported yesterday.
The reports, carried by the Iranian Students’ News Agency and the Fars News agency, which both have close ties to the government, quoted a state prosecutor as saying that shortcomings had been found in the case against the American, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, and that a new trial would be held.
The Hekmati case has become a source of friction between the United States and Iran, coming against the backdrop of the growing confrontation over Iran’s disputed nuclear program. It was unclear whether the Supreme Court’s reported decision to order a new trial represented a political decision in the Iranian hierarchy to offer a diplomatic gesture.
The Supreme Court’s decision came as lawyers representing Hekmati said they had begun an appeal.
The short Iranian news reports also mentioned that in 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 CIA has declined to comment. The White House and the State Department deny Hekmati was a spy and have called for his release. Hekmati was detained in August, but his arrest was not made public until December, when he appeared on state TV and said that he had been sent to Iran by the CIA.