Iran opens trial of US man who 'confessed' to CIA plot

Amir Mirzai Hekmati - photo sent to the BBC by relatives Amir Mirzai Hekmati's family deny he is a spy

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Iran has begun the trial of an American man of Iranian descent accused of being a CIA spy, according to local media.

In the hearing, prosecutors cited a "confession" from Amir Mirzai Hekmati aired on state TV earlier this month, the semi-official Fars news agency reports.

A lawyer for the 28-year-old rejected the allegations, Fars said.

The US say he has been falsely accused and have called for his release.

According to Fars, prosecutors said Mr Hekmati was charged with co-operating "with the hostile US government and the US espionage services of the CIA."

It cited what it said was a confession which Mr Hekmati had made on state TV earlier this month, in which Mr Hekmati admitted to trying to infiltrate Iran's intelligence services for the CIA.

'Training'

Speaking in court, Mr Hekmati was reported as saying he had links to the CIA, but had never intended to harm Iran.

"I was deceived by the CIA... Although I was appointed to break into Iran's intelligence systems and act as a new source for the CIA, I had no intention of undermining the country," Fars quoted him as saying.

Iran says Mr Hekmati received training at US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq before being sent to Iran.

Mr Hekmati's family, who live in Arizona, say the charges against him are fabricated and that he was in Iran to visit his grandmothers.

His father, Ali Hekmati, said his son joined the US military in 2001 and served in the Marines, where he was an Arabic translator.

Iran's government has repeatedly accused the United States of carrying out covert intelligence operations in order to undermine it.

In May, Tehran claimed it had detained a network of 30 CIA operatives, saying they had been involved in espionage and sabotage.

Earlier this month, Iran indicted 15 people on charges of spying for America and Israel but gave few other details.

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