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Iran executes man found guilty of spying for US and Israel

Mahmoud Mousavi Majd was accused of having tracked the movements of assassinated commander Qassem Soleimani
Qassen Soleimani, centre right, was killed, along with Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, centre left, by a US air strike in January (AFP)

Iran has executed a man convicted of spying for US and Israeli intelligence agencies, the country's judiciary said on Monday.

A judiciary spokesperson said that Mahmoud Mousavi Majd had been executed for spying in "various fields," including tracking the movements of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

In a statement carried on the judiciary's Mizan Online website, the spokesperson said the "sentence was carried out on Monday morning over the charge of espionage so that the case of his betrayal to his country will be closed forever".

Soleimani was killed, along with Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, by a US air strike in January.

Majd had been found guilty of receiving large sums of money from both the US Central Intelligence Agency and Israel's Mossad, said the spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran retaliated against the United States for his death by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq, but US President Donald Trump opted against responding militarily.

While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad left no US soldiers dead, dozens suffered brain trauma.

'American dollars'

Majd was arrested about two years ago and was not directly involved in the killing of Soleimani, according to a statement the judiciary issued in June.

Majd had migrated to Syria in the 1970s with his family and worked as an English and Arabic language translator, Mizan said.

When war broke out, he chose to stay in the country while his family left.

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"His knowledge of Arabic and familiarity with Syria's geography made him close to Iranian military advisers and he took responsibilities in groups stationed from Idlib to Latakia," the site added.

Majd was not a member of the Revolutionary Guard "but infiltrated many sensitive areas under the cover of being a translator," it said.

He was found to have been paid "American dollars to reveal information on adviser convoys, military equipment and communication systems, commanders and their movements, important geographical areas, codes and passwords" until he came under scrutiny and his access was downgraded, Mizan added.

Iranian state television showed footage of what it said was one of Majd's CIA handlers, saying the alarm was raised after the interception of communications between the two.

It also showed Majd in an apparent confession video saying he had received coded messages and reportedly met his handlers with documents, including "photos and identification documents of forces and commanders".

Executions and arrests

According to Mizan's report, Majd had been planning to also work with Saudi Arabia's intelligence services before being detained. He was arrested in October 2018, it said.

Iran said last week it had executed another man convicted of spying for the CIA by selling information about Iran's missile programme.

Reza Asgari had worked at the defence ministry's aerospace division for years but retired four years ago, after which he sold "information he had regarding our missiles" to the CIA in exchange for large sums of money, AFP reported.

Iran in February handed down a similar sentence for Amir Rahimpour, another man convicted of spying for the US and conspiring to sell information on Iran's nuclear programme.

Tehran announced in December it had arrested eight people "linked to the CIA" and involved in nationwide street protests that erupted the previous month over a surprise petrol price hike.

It also said in July 2019 that it had dismantled a CIA spy ring, arrested 17 suspects between March 2018 and March 2019, and sentenced some of them to death.

Trump at the time dismissed the claim as "totally false".