Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

Iran to execute 'spy' who helped US track Qassem Suleimani

Judicial spokesman says death sentence will be 'carried out soon'

Qassem Suleimani was killed in a targeted US bombing in Iraq. AFP
Qassem Suleimani was killed in a targeted US bombing in Iraq. AFP

Iran on Tuesday said it would execute a man for giving the US and Israel information that helped to kill a top Iranian general, after his conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Mahmoud Majd was convicted of spying on Iran's armed forces, especially the Quds Force, and on the movement of its commander, Qassem Suleimani, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said.

Mr Esmaili said Mr Majd was paid large sums by Israel's Mossad and the CIA for the information, which led to the assassination of Suleimani in a US drone attack in January.

"Majd's death sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court and will be carried out soon," he said.

Suleimani led the Quds Force, which was the foreign operations arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, until his death in Baghdad.

In February, Iran handed down a death sentence to Amir Rahimpour, another man convicted of spying for the US and conspiring to sell information on Iran's nuclear programme.

Tehran announced in December that it had arrested eight people "linked to the CIA" and involved in nationwide street protests that broke out in the previous month over a sudden rise in petrol prices.

In July 2019 it said that it had dismantled a CIA spy ring, arresting 17 suspects between March 2018 and March 2019 and sentencing some of them to death.

US President Donald Trump at the time dismissed the claim as "totally false".

Iran-US tension has soared in recent years as Mr Trump imposed a campaign of "maximum pressure" against America's sworn enemy.

Since withdrawing the US from a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May 2018, he has hit it with sweeping sanctions.

The two sides appeared to come from the brink of direct conflict several times in the past two years.

Yet despite the tensions and having no formal diplomatic relations since 1980, Tehran and Washington have held several prisoner swaps.

The latest was on Monday when Iranian scientist Majid Taheri returned home as Iran released US Navy veteran Michael White, who had been detained since his arrest in July 2018.

Mr Taheri, an Iranian-American who had been working at a clinic in Tampa, Florida, was held in the US for 16 months over breaching US sanctions by sending a technical item to Iran.

Tehran had also exchanged The Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in January 2016 for seven Iranians held in the US, on the day the nuclear deal came into force.

In December, Iran freed Xiyue Wang, a US academic, in exchange for scientist Massoud Soleimani.

Americans and dual nationals known to be held by Iran include Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer, and Morad Tahbaz.

Two others, Gholam Reza Shahini and Karan Vafadari, have reportedly been released on bail.

Most of the Iranians held in the US are dual nationals charged with evading sanctions by exporting goods to Iran or using the US financial system.

Updated: June 10, 2020 01:59 AM

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