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Iran sentences US Marine to death for spying

January 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Tensions are running even higher between the U.S. and Iran after two blows to an already strained relationship.

A court in Tehran convicted the former U.S. Marine of spying and sentenced him to death. The news came as reports surfaced about Iran enriching uranium at a new underground bunker.

The U.S. State Department is demanding the release of 28-year-old Amire Hekmati, who is a dual U.S.-Iranian national.

Hekmati was born in Arizona, but because Iran doesn't recognize dual citizenship, it considers him an Iranian, which makes his alliance with the U.S. much more serious.

According to Iranian news, Hekmati was arrested in late August or September and has been sentenced to death after a court convicted him of working with a hostile country, belonging to the C.I.A., and trying to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism.

Hekmati's father, who is a college professor in Michigan, has said his son is not a spy and that he was in Iran visiting his grandmothers when he was arrested.

Under Iranian law, Hekmati has 20 days to appeal his death sentence. His release may be more unlikely than others because of the fact Iran sees him as an Iranian working for the enemy.

In the meantime on Monday, diplomats confirmed a report that Iran has begun enriching uranium at a new underground bunker in the north- a bunker Iran said is built to withstand military airstrikes.

Particularly concerning is the fact the material they are making can very quickly be upgraded for use in a nuclear weapon.

Iran still maintains that its goal to seek nuclear reactors is only for energy and research, but the U.S. believes otherwise.

In response, the U.S. has announced sanctions against any country or company that deals with Iran's central bank, which is an attempt to complicate Iran's ability to sell oil.