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Monday
Nov192012

US Marine Arrested in Okinawa for Allegedly Trespassing

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- A U.S. marine was arrested in Okinawa on suspicion of trespassing over the weekend -- the third time an American serviceman has been linked to an alleged crime in Japan's southernmost island in a month.

This time, police say 1st Lt. Tomas Chanquet snuck into an unlocked room drunk and slept there until the resident spotted him.

The incident Sunday comes weeks after U.S. airmen reportedly assaulted a local teenager.

In October, two navy sailors were arrested for allegedly raping a young woman after a night of drinking.  The U.S. enforced curfews for all military personnel in response, but critics say that's done little to keep residents safe.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

Report: American Ex-Marine 'Spy' in Iran to Get Retrial

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The American ex-Marine who was sentenced to death for allegedly spying for the CIA in Iran is getting a retrial, a judicial spokesperson said Monday according to an Iranian news agency.

A high court official told the semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency there were problems with 28-year-old Amir Hekmati's original trial and his death sentence has been annulled.

"There was an objection to the ruling in the Supreme Court and the court found fault with it and sent it to another branch with same level of authority," state prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei said, according to the ISNA.

Hekmati, who was a U.S. Marine for five years before leaving the service for work at various security contracting agencies, was arrested during a visit to Tehran in late August, but his family kept the story out of the press after they said they were promised by the Iranian government that silence would help secure his release.

Then, in December, an Iranian television station showed a news report that featured the Arizona-born Hekmati "confessing" to being a CIA mole sent to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence ministry.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News after the alleged confession, Hekmati's father, Ali, said the accusations against his son are "absolutely, positively" wrong.

"My son is no spy. He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," the elder Hekmati said. "These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."

Still, Amir Hekmati was sentenced to death by an Iranian court after a closed trial in January.

Then, Hekmati's mother, Behnaz, released a statement saying that she and her husband Ali were "shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death. We believe that this verdict is a result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair." Lawyers in Iran had appealed the sentence.

Behnaz was reportedly allowed her first visit to Amir since his detention in late February.

A spokesperson for the Hekmati family did not immediately return requests for comment on this report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan252012

US Marine Escapes Jail Time in 2005 Slayings of Iraqi Civilians

Photos.com/Thinkstock(CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.) -- There is outrage in Iraq over a deal that allowed a Marine to plea down to a lesser charge in the 2005 killings of 24 people in the town of Haditha.

At the time, eight Marines were charged in the deaths of the unarmed residents.  But charges were dropped since then against seven of the defendants, while Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich's manslaughter trial came to a halt when he pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty.

Initially implicated in 19 of 24 deaths, Wuterich told a military court at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Tuesday that he did not shoot any women or children.

He said, "I told my team to shoot first and ask questions later, the intent wasn't that they would shoot civilians, it was that they would not hesitate in the face of the enemy."

Wuterich added that his guilty plea should not be construed as admitting that he or any of his squad did anything to dishonor the Marine Corps or the U.S.

Looking at the possibility of three months in prison, the court did not sentence Wuterich to any jail time.  He could, however, be demoted to private, the lowest rank in the service.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, Saleem al-Jubouri, the head of the Iraqi parliament's human rights committee, said the terms of the plea deal were "a violation of Iraqis' dignity."

Meanwhile, residents of Haditha were stunned by the outcome of the trial.  The mayor of the town complained that the trial made a mockery of the U.S. justice system.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan092012

Iran Sentences American 'Spy' to Death

ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran has sentenced a former U.S. Marine to death on charges of spying for the CIA, Iranian state media reported Monday.

Iran's Revolutionary Court found 28-year-old Amir Hekmati "Corrupt on Earth," according to the Fars news agency, and sentenced him to death "for cooperating with the hostile country...and spying for the CIA." Under Iranian law, Hekmati has 20 days to appeal.  

His trial and death sentence came as Iran announced that it had enriched uranium at an underground facility and as the U.S. imposed harsher economic sanctions on Iran to stop its nuclear program.

Hekmati's mother Behnaz Hekmati released a statement saying that she and her husband Ali were, "shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death. We believe that this verdict is a result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair."

"Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or 'fighting against God,'" as the convicting judge has claimed in his sentence," said the statement.  "Amir is not a criminal.  His life is being exploited for political gain."

The U.S. State Department has asked the Iranian government repeatedly to allow Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, to meet with Hekmati.  Iran has refused, according to the State Department. Hekmati's family also said they had been rebuffed in all attempts to speak with the Iranian government.

"A grave error has been committed," said Hekmati's parents on Monday.  "We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time."

Hekmati, an Arizona-born Iranian-American who served in the U.S. Marines as a rifleman from 2001 to 2005, was arrested while visiting his extended family, including two elderly grandmothers, in Tehran on Aug. 29, 2011, according to the family. The family said they were urged by the Iranian government to keep quiet about his arrest with the promise of later release, but then in December, Hekmati was shown on Iranian television allegedly confessing to being an undercover agent of the Central Intelligence Agency on a mission to infiltrate the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

"It was their [the CIA's] plan to first burn some useful information, give it to them [the Iranians] and let Iran's Intelligence Ministry think that this is good material," Hekmati says calmly in the video.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News shortly after the broadcast, Hekmati's father strongly denied his son was a spy and said the confession was forced.

"My son is no spy.  He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," Hekmati said.  "These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."

In the Iranian broadcast, Hekmati was described as having been trained in military intelligence for 10 years by the U.S. Army before being sent in country on his secret mission to become a double agent for the CIA.  But military service records provided to ABC News showed Hekmati is a former Marine, was never in the Army and never had any military intelligence training. He spoke Arabic and may have helped translate for his Marine unit, but left service in 2005 as a rifleman.

The elder Hekmati said his son worked for a security contractor after his Marine service, but insisted he never had intelligence training there either.

"We've seen this story before with the Iranian regime falsely accusing people of being spies and then holding the innocent foreigners for political reasons," State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in December.  In September, the Iranian government released the last two of three American hikers detained there for two years on accusations of espionage.

Hekmati's mother, father, two sisters and brother all live in the U.S.

"Every waking moment, our family is agonizing over Amir's fate," the family's statement says.  "We continue to hope, struggling to reach out to Iran and abroad for Amir's freedom... to the ones who have hearts, and the ones who can hear.  We will not stop hoping and praying for justice, for peaceful dialogue with Iran, and for Amir's safe return home."

A representative at the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., declined to comment for this report and referred ABC News to his colleagues in New York.  Representatives at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately return requests for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct042010

Census of Marine Life: 10-Year Project Surveys World's Oceans

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- How many fish are there in the sea? Scientists would not dare guess, but they estimate, in the first-ever Census of Marine Life announced Monday, that there are at least 250,000 known species in the world's oceans, from the tiniest single-celled creatures to the most massive blue whales.

It took a decade of work, with 2,700 scientists from 80 countries spending 9,000 days at sea on 540 separate expeditions. Their work was financed by foundations, universities and the governments of the researchers.

The purpose of the census was to establish a baseline -- a cross-section of marine life worldwide -- so that as things change, scientists will not have to speculate just how. Future scientists doing research on climate change, pollution, or shifts in the composition or acidity of sea water in particular parts of the world will have an idea of what lived there back in 2010.

On the way to assembling their database, the researchers came back with remarkable pictures of just a few of the 120,000 species they directly studied. Even after all the work that went into the census, the organizers say another 750,000 species may still be not be catalogued.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio