TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An American man accused by Iran of working for the CIA could face the death penalty, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Tuesday.
In a closed court hearing, the prosecution applied for capital punishment, the report said, because the suspect, identified as Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, "admitted that he received training in the United States and planned to imply that Iran was involved in terrorist activities in foreign countries" after returning to the U.S.
The prosecutor said Hekmati entered Iran's intelligence department three times.
The report said Hekmati repeated a confession broadcast on state TV Dec. 18.
Under the Iranian law spying can lead to death penalty only in military cases .
The Fars report said Hekmati's lawyer, who was identified only by his surname, Samadi, denied the charges. He said Iranian intelligence blocked Hekmati from infiltrating, and under the Iranian law, intention to infiltrate is not a crime.
The lawyer said Hekmati was deceived by the CIA. No date for the next court hearing was released.
Hekmati, 28, was born in Arizona. His family is of Iranian origin. His father, who lives in Michigan, said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.
In Washington. State Department spokesman Mark Toner demanded Hekmati's immediate release. "We've seen this story before with the Iranian regime falsely accusing people of being spies, and then holding innocent foreigners for political reasons," he said, noting that Iran has rejected Swiss requests to visit Hekmati. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran as they two nations do not have diplomatic relations.
Because his father is Iranian, Hekmati is considered an Iranian citizen.
Iran charges that as a U.S. Marine, he received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission.