CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez defended his close ally Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday and warned of “U.S. warmongering threats” amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program and a death sentence against an American man convicted of working for the CIA.
The two leaders met in Caracas on the first leg of a four-nation tour that will also take Ahmadinejad to Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador.
“We are very worried,” Chavez said of the pressures being put on Iran by the United States and its allies, which he accused of being a threat to peace.
Adding to the tensions, Iranian state radio reported on Monday that a court in Iran has convicted dual U.S.-Iranian citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death.
Official Statement:Jan. 9, 20128:30am EST
Amir Hekmati’s parents respond to Iranian press statement about death penalty for their son:
My husband Ali and I are shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death.
We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair.
The Iranian authorities are denying that Amir is a United States citizen, despite the fact he was born in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or “fighting against God,” as the convicting Judge has claimed in his sentence. Amir is not a criminal. His very life is being exploited for political gain.
A grave error has been committed, and we have authorized our legal representatives to make direct contact with the Iranian authorities to find a solution to this misunderstanding.
We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time.
Behnaz Hekmati (Amir’s mother)
Hekmati, 28, a former U.S. Marine Arabic language translator in Iraq, was born in Flagstaff, Arizona of Iranian descent and raised in Michigan. His family in Michigan, former colleagues and American officials say Hekmati never served in the CIA and was in Iran to visit his grandmother…
“Like many other detainees in Iran, Amir Hekmati did not receive a fair trial and we question the timing and political circumstances of this decision,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s interim director for the Middle East and North Africa. “We know from past experience that the Iranian authorities sometimes rush forward with executions of political prisoners — including dual nationals — at politically sensitive times and we fear that this execution could happen within days or weeks.”
Just days after Iranian and American military officials traded warnings over a U.S. Navy vessel’s departure from the Persian Gulf, the United States Navy has rescued 13 Iranian fishermen and their fishing dhow from Somali pirates in the north Arabian sea, the Pentagon said Friday. And in a side irony that punctuates the rare instance of Iranian-American co-operation, the rescue operation was carried out by a ship belonging to the very U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group that Iranian army officials had earlier boasted of evicting from Gulf waters.
(click on headlines for source to news stories)