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State Dept. official confirms ID of man detained in Iran, calls for his release

From Jamie Crawford, CNN
updated 7:43 PM EST, Mon December 19, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A State Department official says a man being held by Iran should be released "without delay"
  • On Sunday, Iranian TV broadcast a video of a man it claimed was a U.S. spy
  • The man identified himself in the video as Amir Mirza Hekmati
  • The State Department official says Hekmati's family reported his detention in September

Washington (CNN) -- A day after Iranian TV broadcast video of what it called the confession of a U.S. spy, a State Department official confirmed the identity of the man in Iranian custody and called for his release "without delay."

On Sunday, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency carried a video in which a young man said his name is Amir Mirza Hekmati, and that he had joined the U.S. Marine Corps and had worked with Iraqi officers.

On Monday, a State Department official told CNN, "We are aware of reports that Amir Mirza Hekmati has been detained in Iran. We remain in contact with his family, who first reported his detention in September."

"We have requested access to Mr. Hekmati via our Swiss Protecting Power," said the official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity and ongoing nature of the situation. "We call upon the government of Iran to grant the Swiss Protecting Power immediate access to Mr. Hekmati and to release him without delay."

Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran, which doesn't have diplomatic relations with the United States.

Citing "privacy considerations," the official said no other details about the man or his situation would be available.

The purported confession was not broadcast in full by Fars and it was not clear what questions Hekmati had been asked. He appeared calm and collected, sitting in a quiet, well-furnished room.

According to Fars, Hekmati was born in Arizona and began serving in the U.S. military in 2001. He received language training and became an intelligence analyst, it said.

The news agency also broadcast photographs of Hekmati, and an image of a card identifying him as belonging to the U.S. armed forces.

State media reported Saturday that Iran's Intelligence Ministry claimed it had arrested an Iranian-American working as a CIA agent.

The alleged spy is a CIA analyst who has served in American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, state-run Press TV reported, citing a statement from the Intelligence Ministry.

The suspect was "tasked with carrying out a complex intelligence operation and infiltrating the Iranian intelligence apparatus," Press TV reported.

The State Department official said Monday, "We have seen this story before: the Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent foreigners for political reasons."

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