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Iran executes ex-defence ministry contractor over spying for CIA and US government

Jalal Haji Zavar killed over alleged espionage amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran
ISNA said Haji Zavar was executed, at an unspecified time, at the Rajayi Shahr prison in the city of Karaj (AFP - File pic)

Iran has executed a former defence ministry contractor convicted of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA reported on Saturday.

"The execution sentence was carried out for Jalal Haji Zavar, a contractor for the defence ministry's aerospace organisation who spied for the CIA and the American government," ISNA reported, quoting the Iranian military.

Haji Zavar had left his post nine years ago and was convicted by a military court after an investigation which discovered documents and spying equipment at his home, the IRIB news agency added.

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ISNA said he was convicted by Iran's military court and that he was executed, at an unspecified time, at the Rajayi Shahr prison in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran.

The agency did not say when Haji Zavar was arrested but that he had been identified as a spy by the defence ministry's intelligence unit, the AFP news agency said.

During the investigation the suspect "explicitly confessed to spying for the CIA" in return for money, ISNA said, adding that "documents and espionage devices were found at his house".

Haji Zavar's former wife was convicted of "involvement in espionage" and is serving a 15-year jail sentence, the agency said.

'New' US spy network

The report comes days after Iran said it had dismantled a "new" US spy network in the country linked to the CIA, amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.

In what it termed a "wide-reaching blow" to US intelligence, state news agency IRNA said on Tuesday that Tehran had carried out the operation in cooperation with "foreign allies", without naming any state.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran flared up after Iran, late on Thursday, said it shot down a US "spy" drone which violated its airspace, a claim the US denies, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday that American forces were "cocked & loaded" to strike Iran but pulled back at the last minute as it would not have been a "proportionate" response to Tehran's shooting down of the unmanned drone.

The downing of the drone came after tensions spiked between the two countries following a series of attacks on tankers the US has blamed on Iran.