Iran has detained 17 Iranian citizens accused of acting as spies for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, according to the country’s Ministry of Intelligence.
An Intelligence Ministry document sent to CNN claims Iran had broken up a CIA spying ring and captured 17 suspects, all of whom confessed to acting as spies for the CIA.
“Defendants serving their sentences in prison mentioning tempting promises of CIA officers including emigration to USA, a proper job in America, and money,” the Intelligence Ministry document said. It added that the spy mission was to collect classified information “from substantial centers as well as intelligence/technical operations.”
The Ministry said some of the 17 will be executed.
The announcement comes amid a standoff between Tehran and Western powers following President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran, and an accelerating series of recent maritime episodes, including Iran’s seizure of a UK-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.
Under the heading “Destiny of Spies,” Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said in the document: “Individuals who consciously and deliberately betrayed the country and refused to compensate for the losses have been handed over to the judiciary system. Others, who honestly cooperated with the security system and their remorsefulness have been proved, have been managed with intelligence direction against Americans.”
CNN has approached the CIA for comment.
Tensions in the region escalated further over the weekend after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) captured a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.
The IRGC accused the vessel of “violating international regulations.”
Britain has warned Iran it would take “robust” action in response. The UK government’s emergency response committee, known as COBRA, is meeting on Monday to discuss the situation.
Iran’s actions in the strait came just hours after authorities in Gibraltar agreed to extend the detention of an Iranian oil tanker in its custody for 30 days. That ship, the Grace 1, was seized by British authorities on July 4, accused of attempting to transport oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.