Nightly News   |  January 09, 2012

Iran sentences American to death

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was charged with spying for the CIA. NBC’s Ali Arouzi reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a former marine, has been sentenced to death accused of spying. his family and the u.s. government have a very different version of what he was doing in that country. our tehran bureau chief is with us tonight from tehran. ali, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. the american sentenced to death is 8-year-old amir mirzaei hekmati, a former u.s. marine who served as an arab translator. he was born in arizona to immigrant tehranian parents and holds dual citizenships. iran does not recognize his u.s. citizenship . he was arrested in early december and charged with spying for the cia. three weeks ago state tv showed him allegedly confessing to being part of a cia plot. photographs of hekmati have been posted online. his family say they are terrified and shocked at the sentence, and insist he was only in iran to visit his grandmother. obama administration was quick to react.

>> if it is true that he has been so sentenced, we would condemn this verdict in the strongest terms. we maintained from the beginning that the chargest against him were a fabrication and we call on the iranian government to release him immediately.

>> reporter: all this is playing out amid growing tensions over iran's nuclear program . iran announced that it's now enriching uranium at a second underground facility. iran supreme leader this morning said despite heavy sanctions, iran was not going to back down on its nuclear program . meanwhile, an american sits in an iranian jail with 20 days to appeal his death sentence .

>> ali, thank you for that.