A US-born man who appeared to confess on Iranian state television last month that he allegedly spied for America -- actions that supposedly included doing work for a video game development studio purported to be a CIA front -- has been sentenced to death by the Iranian government.
Iran's Revolutionary Court found Amir Mizra Hekmati to be "Corrupt on Earth and Mohareb (waging war on God)," according to a the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars. The New York Times says that "formulation is routinely used in cases against alleged enemies of the Islamic Republic and the charge carries the death sentence."
Hekmati is a US Marine and supposed former developer at Kuma Reality Games
The 29-year-old Hekmati appeared on Iranian TV in December, appearing to confess a litany of espionage transgressions, including spying in Iraq and Afghanistan with the intent to infiltrate Iran. Hekmati also make the unusual claim that he worked for Kuma, a developer of ripped-from-the-headlines war video games, an outfit his confessions suggested wasn't simply in existence to make money and entertain.
"After (working for DARPA), I went to Kuma (Games Company)," Hekmati was quoted as saying by Iran's Tehran Times in December. "This computer company was receiving money from the CIA to (produce) and design and distribute for free special movies and games with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East. The goal of the company in question was to convince the people of Iran and the people of the entire world that whatever the US does in other countries is a good measure."
Kuma officials declined to comment last month, neither confirming that Hekmati worked for them nor clarifying the nature of the New York-based company's work. Keith Halper, head of Kuma, had told me in 2006, that his company has done work developing training software for the US Army -- as a side project -- but the company's more recent work has ranged from re-creations of the killing of Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi to games about dinosaurs.
We've contacted Kuma for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
The United States government has demanded the release of Hekmati, according to the New York Times. Hekmati remains a US citizen.
Hekmati's mother has pleaded for mercy and says her son was merely trying to visit family in Iran and was not spying. "Amir is not a criminal," she wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press. "His very life is being exploited for political gain." She said his sentence was "the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair."