A Tehran court sentenced an Iranian man to death on charges of spying for Israel, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported on Monday.
The defendant, Ali Ashtari, 43, a Muslim who owns an electronics import business, was arrested about 18 months ago by the Iranian Intelligence. Once the prosecution presented the court with various wiretapping equipment allegedly used by Ashtari in his espionage activities, he reportedly confessed, pled guilty on all charges and expressed remorse for his actions.
"Iran is too intelligent to believe the lies the enemy's agents are trying to tell it," Ashtari told reporters at the courthouse. It is believed his statement was dictated by the Iranian Intelligence.
Ashtari further told reporters that his business was based mostly on importing wireless communication devices from Dubai, "since besides imports I was also doing some planning and consulting work, so they (Israel) asked me about the communications' infrastructure in Iran."
According to him, "The Mossad wanted to use me to sell marked goods to the Iranian Intelligence." He told the court he had contact with three Mossad agents, " Jacques, Charles and Tony," and that they met several times, in Thailand, Turkey and Switzerland.
The three apparently presented themselves as bankers who worked for the Fortis Bank (a Belgium bank ranked among Europe’s top 20 financial institutions), and told him they were interested in exploring a business venture.
The three offered him an unofficial loan – "which struck me as odd" – and proceeded to give him a laptop – "which could send and receive encrypted email" – as well as two DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) devices with a satellite hookup, "to give to my Iranian clients. I think those were wired."
Polygraph test disguised as medical treatmentAccording to court records, Ashtari then said that the Mossad gave him $50,000 as a business loan, "to buy merchandise to sell in Iran" and paid for all of his travel expenses.
"After six or seven meetings the invited me to Switzerland and said they wanted to help me get medical treatments, because I have a heart problem. But when I got there they had me undergo a polygraph test. They wanted to make sure I wasn't working for the Iranian Intelligence and that I have no military record."
Ashtari's arrest was made public on Saturday, when the Iranian news agency Fars reported that an Iranian national was arrested for allegedly spying for Israel.
Iran arrested eight Iranian Jews four years ago, for reportedly belonging to an Israeli espionage network. In 1998, Iranian Intelligence arrested shoe salesman Daniel Tephilin for supposedly running an espionage network out of the southern Iranian city of Shiraz.
Reuters contributed to this report