Iran has captured 17 spies allegedly working for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media reported on Monday, amid soaring tensions between Tehran and Washington.
“Those who deliberately betrayed the country were handed to the judiciary… some were sentenced to death and some to long-term imprisonment.”
The announcement comes as Iran-US tensions soar after the United States withdrew unilaterally from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed economic sanctions on the Islamic republic.
The suspects had been “employed at sensitive and crucial centres and also the private sector related to them, working as contractors or consultants,” said the official.
Iranian state television published images it said showed the CIA officers who were in touch with the suspected spies.
There was no immediate comment on the Iranian allegations by the CIA or US officials.
Iran announced in June that it had broken up an alleged CIA spy ring but it was unclear whether Monday’s announcement was linked to the same case.
The announcement comes after three months of spiralling confrontation between Iran and the West that began when new tighter US sanctions took effect in May.
In a statement read on state television, the Ministry of Intelligence said 17 spies were arrested during the Iranian calendar year that ended in March 2019.
“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructure, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” read the ministry statement.
In a separate report, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a Ministry of Intelligence official as saying some of those arrested had been sentenced to death.
An Iranian television documentary aired on Monday purported to show a CIA officer recruiting an Iranian man in the United Arab Emirates.
“Because there are so many intelligence officers in Dubai. It is very dangerous… Iranian intelligence,” a woman was shown telling an Iranian in the documentary about alleged CIA spying in Iran which was broadcast on state television.
First video released of one of the CIA spies in Iran pic.twitter.com/T9O2LUrq6x
— Reza Khaasteh (@Khaaasteh) July 22, 2019
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