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Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 09:02 UK

'Israel spy' sentenced in Iran

Defendant Ali Ashtari in court
The defendant confessed to spying and has asked for clemency

An Iranian man has been sentenced to death for spying for Israel, according to reports from Tehran.

Ali Ashtari was found guilty of sending "sensitive information on military, defence and research centres" to Iran's arch foe in the region, reports say.

Israeli officials have been quoted as saying that Israel was not familiar with the case.

Iranian media say he was put on trial on Saturday. He confessed to charges against him and asked for clemency.

Mr Ashtari has 20 days to appeal against the verdict handed down by a revolutionary court.

Iranian state TV said Mr Ashtari was a 45-year-old tradesman in electronic merchandise who supplied electronic devices to military bases and research centres.

The material he reported to have sent to Israel included information about his country's Atomic Energy Organisation.

An official is quoted saying that Mr Ashtari was trying to set up links between Iranian experts and members of the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad .

The text of his alleged confession is reported by Fars news agency, which says Mossad gave him $50,000 to supply internet cables and satellite phones to "special customers" in the hope of enabling Israel to spy on their communications.

"I am not sure what they intended to do as before I sold these to my customers I was arrested," he added.

Correspondents say the verdict comes amid an intensifying war of words between Iran and Israel, which has threatened military action to halt Iran's controversial nuclear programme.




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