Iran Military Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty for Spies, Judiciary Spokesman Says

Iranian authorities have successfully dismantled several U.S. spy networks in recent years, the Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced during a televised news conference in Tehran.

“U.S. intelligence agencies have used several teams to conduct espionage operations,” Mr. Esmaili said. “In one of the previous counterintelligence operations, the [Intelligence Ministry’s] Imam Zaman Anonymous Soldiers Unit discovered an international American spy network. We shared the information with our allies, including China. The operation resulted in the execution of two people.”

Esmaili added: “The U.S. did not, however, halt its espionage activities after that. The Imam Zaman Anonymous Soldiers Unit discovered another U.S. spy network in the fall of 2018. They identified and arrested several people who worked in the police force, military, Intelligence Ministry, nuclear centers, and infrastructure facilities.”

Esmaili explained: “Security forces handed the perpetrators of these crimes against the state over to the Judiciary. A Revolutionary Court gave lengthy jail sentences to the two civilian defendants. Military courts tried others who worked at military sites. The prosecutor in the case has called for death penalties. The military court will review these sentences in due course.”

The spokesman for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif had previously described reports on desertion and financial corruption of senior commanders and their families as “repugnant rumors.”

“These unfounded accusations are the enemy’s desperate response to the increasing popularity of the IRGC among Iranian people,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported in June, citing commander Sharif. “Despite America’s illegal and aggressive actions against the IRGC [designating the force a terrorist organization in April 2019], the IRGC continues to occupy a special place in the hearts of the Iranian nation. IRGC’s main purpose is to serve the nation and safeguard the security of the country.”

Gholamhossein Esmaili. Source: Kayhan London

In recent months, senior officials have warned against espionage operations aimed at infiltrating the country’s intelligence and security agencies. Several political prisoners who were recently released have said that they saw a few IRGC and security officials in various cell blocks inside Tehran’s Evin prison, some of whom were reportedly in jail on charges of espionage.

“Jalal Hajizavar, a contract employee for the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces’ Aerospace Industries Organization, who was convicted of spying for the U.S. government and the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and sentenced to death, has been executed,” the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on June 22, citing the Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces.

According to the Iranian state media, Mr. Hajizavar had been fired from his job at the Ministry of Defense in 2010. The authorities had reportedly found spying equipment in his house. A military court convicted him, and he was subsequently hanged in prison in Karaj, capital of the northern province of Alborz. The court found Hajizavar’s wife, Leila Tajik, guilty of assisting her husband and sentenced her to15 years in prison.

On March 4, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament), called for a formal investigation into “possible insider espionage aimed at influencing the decision-making process and field operations at the Ministry of Intelligence.”

Intelligence agencies of the Islamic Republic have experienced severe lapses in security. An espionage operation [by Israeli intelligence in 2018] which resulted in the seizure of sensitive information from the archives of the Kahrizak nuclear facilities is an excellent example of successful infiltration of the restricted Iranian sites.

There is also a disconnect between the regular army and the IRGC which has not coordinated its efforts with any other state agency to counter potential threats from America. IRGC’s efforts to disrupt international GPS signals have interfered with the radars at the airports, telephone lines, the internet, defense systems, and ship navigation equipment.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]