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Iran hangs alleged spy, militant

The two were arrested years ago. Critics say the executions are part of an attempt by the government to send a message as the public outcry increases over cutbacks in fuel and food subsidies.

December 29, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
  • Ali Saremi, shown in an undated photo, was accused of distributing propaganda and organizing meetings of the outlawed group Mujahedin Khalq.
Ali Saremi, shown in an undated photo, was accused of distributing propaganda… (National Council of Resistance…)

Reporting from Beirut — Iran on Tuesday executed a man accused of spying for Israel and another for allegedly distributing CDs and leaflets promoting an outlawed opposition group. The hangings come amid a crackdown on activists that has coincided with unpopular economic austerity measures.

Ali Akbar Siadat was accused of peddling military secrets to Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. Ali Saremi was an alleged member of the militant group Mujahedin Khalq. Both were hanged at dawn in Tehran's Evin Prison, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The men were arrested and accused of their crimes years ago, and activists said the executions probably were part of a government attempt to send a message to the opposition. Public discontent is growing in the wake of a drastic reduction in fuel and food subsidies that has sent prices skyrocketing.

Those who question the reduction have been accused of "economic sedition" meant to undermine the Islamic Republic.

"If anyone wants to abuse the atmosphere that has come about, strict measures will be taken against them," Ali Mohammad Azad, governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, told state television Saturday.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jaafari Dowlatabadi acknowledged Sunday that a prominent economist, Fariborz Raisdana, had been arrested because he was trying to "subvert" the subsidy cuts in radio interviews.

Already, there are signs that authorities are preparing the public for a difficult road ahead. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd Tuesday in Karaj, the capital of Alborz, the newly created urban province adjacent to Tehran, that the harsh measures would help Iran overcome poverty and unemployment "in five or six years."

Human rights activists have grown alarmed by Iran's increasing application of the death penalty, especially after suspects are held for weeks or months without access to counsel in interrogation and trials are held secretly in politically charged Revolutionary Courts.

Germany nearly pulled its ambassador from Tehran after Iran hesitated before allowing relatives to visit two jailed German journalists. The two are accused of trying to illegally interview the son and lawyer of a woman who became an international cause after she was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

IRNA, citing information posted on the website of the Tehran prosecutor, reported that accused spy Siadat allegedly began collaborating with Israeli intelligence in 2005, passing on "classified information" in exchange for $60,000. He used a business as his cover and "gradually began dispatching secret military information," including the number of Iranian warplanes, activity at military airports, navigational systems and aviation accidents.

He allegedly met Mossad agents at hotels in Turkey, Thailand and the Netherlands, and confessed to receiving $3,000 to $7,000 for each rendezvous.

He was arrested in late 2008 as he and his wife tried to escape the country, the report said.

According to news reports, Saremi allegedly was a longtime member of the Mujahedin Khalq, a cult-like militant group that lost much of its credibility among Iranians after teaming up with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Saremi was arrested in 1983, 1989 and 2005 but eventually released.

He was arrested for a fourth and final time in 2007 after allegedly distributing propaganda and organizing meetings of the group; he was sentenced to death as an enemy of God.

daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.

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