State news: Iran executed 4 people who they say were spying for Israel

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CAIRO – Iranian authorities on Sunday executed four people accused of working for Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, state-run news agency IRNA said. Three others received lengthy prison terms.

IRNA said the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards have announced the arrests of a network of people associated with the Israeli service. It said the members had previous criminal records and attempted to disrupt the country’s security.

Israel and Iran are regional nemesis, and Iran occasionally announces the detention of people it claims are spying for foreign countries, including the United States and Israel. Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israel armed groups across the region, such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

According to the report, network members stole and destroyed private and public property and kidnapped and interrogated individuals. It said the alleged spies had weapons and received wages from the Mossad in the form of cryptocurrency.

IRNA identified the executed prisoners as Hossein Ordoukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmoudabadi, Milad Ashrafi and Manouchehr Shahbandi. Three other members of the group received sentences of five to 10 years in prison, according to the news agency, but they were not identified. They were arrested in June and sentenced to death on charges of “intelligence cooperation with Israel”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Court regularly issues death sentences, although it remains unclear which court charged the four men in June. The Revolutionary Court was established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and is known for imposing harsh sentences on those who oppose Iran’s cleric rulers. According to Amnesty International, Iran executed at least 314 people in 2021, more than half of the total number of state executions in the Middle East that year.

Iran and Israel have long accused each other of espionage. Israel views Iran as its greatest threat and has repeatedly threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking such weapons and has vowed to respond harshly to any Israeli aggression.

In January, Israel said it busted an Iranian spy ring that recruited Israeli women through social media to photograph sensitive sites, gather intelligence and encourage their sons to join Israeli military intelligence.

In July, Iran said it had arrested members of an armed group linked to the Mossad after they sneaked into Iran from across the western border. In 2020, Iran executed a man convicted of leaking information to the US and Israel about a prominent Revolutionary Guard general who was later killed by a US drone strike in Iraq.

Israel also regularly carries out attacks on Iranian-affiliated militant groups in neighboring Syria. Iran was a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad during the country’s 11-year civil war, sending thousands of Iranian-backed fighters from across the region to fight alongside its forces. Israeli officials rarely discuss the operations, but have said in the past that they will work to prevent Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

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