Iran hangs Israeli 'spy'

Iran has hanged an Iranian telecoms salesperson convicted of spying for arch-enemy Israel, a senior official said on Saturday, warning that a “more serious intelligence war” had begun with the Jewish state.

“Ali Ashtari, who spied for the Zionist regime intelligence service [Mossad] was hanged on Monday November 17,” the state news agency IRNA said, quoting the intelligence ministry’s counter-espionage director, whose name was not given.

“He had spied for Mossad for three years,” the official said, adding that “his espionage was so evident” that there had never been any hope of a successful appeal against the verdict.

Ashtari (45) had been accused of involvement in a plot run by the Israeli secret services to intercept the communications of Iranian officials working in the military and its contested nuclear programme.

He was arrested in February 2007 and sentenced to death by a revolutionary court this past June.

“By announcing Ashtari’s execution we meant to show new intelligence wars have started with the intelligence services of the enemy and intelligence wars have become more serious,” the official said.

He added that Iran had also arrested four people allegedly tasked by Mossad to carry out assassinations and equipped with “Zionist-regime-made weapons” near the border with Iraqi Kurdistan in western Iran.

He said the targets were not officials but that “it was important to us as they were supposed to be assassinated by Mossad”.

Tension has flared between the two countries since the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly said the Jewish state is doomed to disappear and branded the Holocaust a “myth”.

Israel, which along with the United States accuses Iran of seeking atomic weapons, has never ruled out a military action to halt Tehran’s nuclear drive.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is only aimed at producing electricity and angrily points to Israel’s widely believed status as the sole, if undeclared, nuclear weapons power in the Middle East region.—AFP

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