DETROIT — An Iranian-American from Michigan who appeared on Iran's state TV is not a CIA spy as authorities in that country claim and was visiting relatives when he was detained, his father said Monday.
Iran's state TV broadcast video Sunday of 28-year-old Amir Mirzaei Hekmati and said he was a CIA spy who sought to infiltrate Iran's secret services. The TV said he had received special training and served at U.S. military bases before heading to Iran.
But Ali Hekmati told The Associated Press Monday that his son was visiting his grandmothers in Tehran when he was detained and never worked for the CIA.
"He is not a spy. It's a whole bunch of lies on my good son," said Ali Hekmati, a microbiology professor at Mott Community College in Flint, about 50 northwest of Detroit. "They have lied about any American ... captured in Iran for visiting or tourism, or for any other reason."
The CIA declined to comment, as did State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Iran and the U.S. are locked in a complicated intelligence and technological battle, and the video of Hekmati comes weeks after Iran first displayed a nearly intact American spy drone that it claims it captured and brought down. U.S. officials say the unmanned aircraft malfunctioned and has demanded Iran return the top-secret aircraft. Iran has refused.
Ali Hekmati said his son was a former Arabic translator in the U.S. Marines who entered Iran about four months ago.
"My wife tried to talk him out of it," Ali Hekmati said of the visit to Iran. "The first two weeks went without incident. The third week in Tehran, some people visited him and took him away. Nobody heard from him in the next three months."