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Iran Hangs Iranian Convicted Of Spying For Israel

Ali Ashtari was sentenced to death by a revolutionary court in June.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran executed this week an Iranian businessman who was convicted of spying on the military for Islamic Republic's arch foe Israel, the judiciary has announced.

A judiciary statement obtained by Reuters said Ali Ashtari was hanged early on November 17. It said he was arrested in 2006 after working with Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, for three years.

Tensions have run high in recent months between Iran and Israel, which has not ruled out military strikes on the Islamic Republic if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve a row over Tehran's nuclear work.

Israel, believed to be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear arms, accuses Iran of seeking to build atomic weapons. Iran denies this, saying its aims are civilian.

"Ali Ashtari, an Iranian who spied for the Zionist regime of Israel, was hanged on Monday morning," the statement said, adding that he had been detained at the end of 2006.

He was sentenced to death in June, Iranian media had reported. At the time, the reports said Ashtari was a 43-year-old manager of a company selling communications and security equipment to Iran's government.

An Israeli government official said in June that Israel had no knowledge of the case. Israel's Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment on the case after the news of his execution.

"Ashtari, during the three years of cooperation with Mossad had carried out a wide-range of activities in favor of Mossad and on some occasions he succeeded in creating good conditions for Israelis," the judiciary statement said, without elaborating. The statement said he had been given "special equipment" to contact Mossad, adding that he picked it up when he visited foreign companies at exhibitions abroad.

Television footage broadcast in June showed Ashtari in court apparently confessing to his activities. Iran has often broadcast confessions in the past from those accused of threatening state security.

Iran's Mehr News Agency said Ashtari's body had been handed over to his family and was buried.

Iran's official news agency IRNA also has reported a group of four "terrorists" with "Zionist equipment and methods" were arrested in west Iran and said they were planning to carry out assassinations. It did not say when they were detained.

Iran often accuses Israel and other foreign foes, such as the United States, of trying to destabilize its government.