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Iran detains 17 citizens accused of spying for the CIA, and says they were given 'tempting promises' of jobs and money in the US

Alexandra Ma , Business Insider US
 Jul 22, 2019, 02:30 PM
Hassan Rouhani (L,)President of Iran, and US President Donald Trump.
  • Iran's intelligence ministry said it broke up a CIA spying ring in the country, and detained 17 Iranian suspects.
  • The suspects were employed in "vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas," where they "collected classified information", the ministry said, according to Sky News.
  • They were lured into working for the CIA by being offered a chance to move to the US and work there, CNN reported the ministry as saying.
  • Monday's announcement comes as nuclear and military tensions between Tehran and the West continue to mount.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Iran says it has detained 17 citizens accused of spying for the CIA, and that some of them will be executed.

The country's intelligence ministry said it had broken up a spying ring consisting of Iranian who were lured by a chance to move to the US and work there, CNN reported on Monday.

The suspects were "employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas ... where they collected classified information," an Iranian intelligence official told state TV on Monday, according to Sky News.

The intelligence official did not give his name, which Sky News said is unusual.

The CIA has not yet responded to Iran's announcement. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he couldn't comment on Iran's Monday announcement, but said Tehran has a history of lying, Reuters reporter Dan Williams reported.

The mission of the alleged spies had been to collect classified information "from substantial centers as well as intelligence/technical operations," the intelligence ministry said in a document, cited by CNN.

Iranian authorities arrested the alleged spies months ago, and many of them have been detained in prison since, according to Sky News and CNN reported.

Some of the suspects have also been sentenced to death, though the unnamed intelligence official did not say how many, Sky News reported.

Iran's intelligence ministry said in a document, as cited by CNN: "Defendants serving their sentences in prison mentioning tempting promises of CIA officers including emigration to USA, a proper job in America, and money."

All 17 suspects have confessed to spying for the CIA, CNN said.

Amnesty International reported last week, however, that Iranian authorities have a history of using solitary confinement and threats against family members to make people unsavory to the regime confess to crimes they didn't commit.

The ministry also appeared to suggest that Iranian authorities plan to retaliate against the CIA.

It said, according to CNN: "Individuals who consciously and deliberately betrayed the country and refused to compensate for the losses have been handed over to the judiciary system."

"Others, who honestly cooperated with the security system and their remorsefulness have been proved, have been managed with intelligence direction against Americans," the ministry added.

Tehran's announcement comes amid weeks of spiraling tensions with the West.

There have been several maritime skirmishes on the Strait of Hormuz - a narrow waterway to Iran's south that's crucial to global oil trade - since mid-June.

Iranian authorities seized two British-linked oil tankers in the strait last Friday, in what appears to be retaliation to the UK's seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off the British territory of Gibraltar on July 4. Iran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero, and briefly detained another ship, the Mescar.

Read more: A radio recording reveals the exchange between a Royal Navy frigate and Iranian armed forces vessels moments before a UK tanker was seized

US President Donald Trump last week also said a US warship had shot down an Iranian drone, though Tehran has repeatedly said this didn't happen.

Iran and the West remain at odds over the 2015 nuclear deal and crippling US sanctions. Tehran violated a 300 kg limit on enriched uranium earlier this month and has vowed to increase its stockpile.

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