Death penalty to ‘few’ in CIA spy ring dismantled by Iran

Tehran: Iranian authorities said on Monday that security agencies had arrested 17 suspects and sentenced some of them to death after dismantling a CIA spy ring in a case announced last month.

The agencies “successfully dismantled a (CIA spy network,” the head of counter-intelligence at the Iranian intelligence ministry, whose identity was not revealed, told reporters in Tehran.

“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.

Seventeen suspects had been identified, all of them Iranians who had acted independently of each other, he said.

Some of them had been recruited by falling into a “visa trap” set by the CIA for Iranians seeking to travel to the US. “Some were approached when while applying for a visa, while others had visas from before and were pressured by the CIA to renew them,” said the counter-intelligence chief.