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Iran Sentences U.S. Citizen to Death, Begins Underground Uranium Enrichment

Braden Holly |
January 9, 2012 | 11:20 a.m. PST


Iranian Flag. Courtesty of Creative Commons.
Iranian Flag. Courtesty of Creative Commons.
The already tense relationship between Iran and the West becomes even more taut as an Iranian court sentences an American citizen to death for spying and begins preparations to enrich uranium at an underground facility.
The Los Angeles Times reported:

The sentencing of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, 28, is likely to add to the tension between the United States and Iran, which has been escalating over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program.

While Hekmati was formerly a translator for the United States military and served with the U.S. Marines, his visit was for purely personal reasons.

According to The Los Angeles Times:

His father, Ali Hekmati, a community college professor in Flint, Mich., told the Associated Press that his son was a former U.S. military translator who was in Iran to visit his two grandmothers.
Hekmati’s trial coincided with U.S. sanctions of Iran over their nuclear agenda.

Time reported that:

 Iran, which says it only seeks nuclear reactors for energy and research, has sharply increased its threats and military posturing against stronger pressures, including the U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's Central Bank in attempts to complicate its ability to sell oil.

The U.S. State Department has demanded Hekmati's release.

Meanwhile, Iran has started uranium enrichment at an underground facility, an act that could further erode attempts by governments to peacefully negotiate.
According to Reuters:

 The start of enrichment at the Fordow bunker near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom was confirmed on Monday by an Iranian official in Tehran and two diplomats in Vienna, home of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has inspected it.
Locating enrichment - the most contentious part of Iran's nuclear program - deep underground could eventually make it much harder for U.S. or Israeli forces to bomb, narrowing the time window for diplomacy to avert any potential attack.

Hekmati still has 20 days to appeal the court's decision, but Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran have been denied access to the accused spy, according to the Los Angeles Times.


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