[JURIST] An Iranian appeals court [official website, in Persian] on Saturday overturned the death sentence of ex-Marine Amir Hekmati [advocacy website] who was convicted of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] in 2011. Saturday's ruling decreased [AP report] Hekmati's sentence to 10 years in prison. Hekmati is a dual US-Iranian citizen who was arrested in August 2011 and accused of receiving special training at US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged mission. Hekmati has denied the allegations, claiming he entered Iran in 2011 to visit his grandmother. Last November the Obama administration urged Iran to free Hekmati and two other Americans believed to be held there. According to his lawyer, If Hekmati serves one-third of his sentence, he may be entitled to conditional freedom, which would allow him to visit his family in the US as early as this upcoming September.
Hekmati's case has been highly contentious ever since after he made a public confession [Naharnet report] on Iranian state television where he admitted his mission was to infiltrate Iran's intelligence systems by initially offering information to gain their trust in order to find evidence that Iran was involved in terrorist activity. The US government has argued the charges against Hekmati are false. In March 2012 Iran's Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] the death sentence against Hekmati and ordered a retrial. In January 2012 Hekmati was sentenced [JURIST report] to death for espionage. Preliminary hearings for Hekmati's trial began [JURIST report] in December of 2011.