Iran hangs man convicted of spying for Israel
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI,Associated Press Writer AP - Sunday, November 23
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran executed an electronics salesman convicted of relaying information on the country's nuclear program and other sensitive data to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, a judiciary spokesman said Saturday.
Ali Ashtari was hanged Nov. 17 after being sentenced to death on June 30 by a revolutionary court in Tehran, spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said. It was the country's first known conviction for espionage linked to Israel in almost a decade.
Ashtari was found guilty of relaying sensitive information to Israel on military, defense and research centers that the 45-year-old electronics salesman supplied, Jamshidi said.
Iranian officials have said the material they accused Ashtari of passing on to Israeli intelligence officials included information on Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.
A senior Iranian intelligence official said the announcement of Ashtari's hanging was part of an "intelligence battle" with the spy agencies of Iran's enemies, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"We had specific intentions with announcing the execution of Ashtari. ... We want to show that new intelligence battles with enemies' intelligence services have begun and that intelligence battles have become more serious," IRNA quoted the head of the Counterespionage Department at the Intelligence Ministry as saying.
The news agency didn't identify the intelligence official by name, as is customary in Iran.
The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted the same official as saying Saturday that Ashtari's body was handed over to his family last Monday and later buried.
In Jerusalem, Israel's Foreign Ministry refused to comment on Saturday. At the time of Ashtari's sentencing, in June, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel had no knowledge of the case.
In video aired on state television Saturday, Ashtari is seen confessing to spying for Israel and saying that he regretted his actions. The date of the recording was not given.
"I was perhaps afraid of going to the (Iranian) Ministry of Intelligence," Ashtari says in the video. "This fear made me choose the wrong path. All the directions that I chose ended in a deadlock."
"I want everyone to learn a lesson from my fate and not play with their lives," he said. "See my destiny and set it as an example for yourselves. And do not make the same mistakes that I made."
The television also showed communications equipment it said Ashtari used to relay data to his contacts.
"The enemy may not attack from air or sea but it easily penetrates (other countries) through communication systems," Ashtari said.
Jamshidi, the judiciary spokesman, said Ashtari was arrested in 2007 after cooperating with the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad for three years. Prior to his trial, Iranian officials accused Ashtari of trying to "create a link" between Iranian experts and Israeli agents.
Iran and Israel have long been enemies. The ruling against Ashtari is the first time since 2000 that an Iranian court has convicted an Iranian citizen of charges of spying for Israel. The ruling against Ashtari was handed down by Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles security issues.
A court in 2000 convicted 10 Iranian Jews of spying for Israel in a closed-door trial and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. All were released before serving out their full sentences.
Ashtari's hanging comes amid rumors of Israeli intentions to attack Iran's nuclear facilities because of charges that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Israel, the United States and many Western countries contend that Iran's nuclear program is intended to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its program is for peaceful purposes such as generating power.
Earlier this year, Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled its Eitam airplane, which is equipped with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems.
Israel also launched an advanced spy satellite in January able to track events even at night and in cloudy weather _ all of which could be used to spy on Iran.
In 1981, an Israeli air attack destroyed an unfinished nuclear reactor in Iraq. Israel also hit a suspected nuclear facility in Syria in September 2007.
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