American video game designer sentenced to death in Iran for spying

Iran's Revolutionary Court gave the death sentence to Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an American-born citizen and former United States military serviceman, on charges of allegedly spying for the Central Intelligence Agency. Hekmati, who is of Iranian descent, claimed in his confession that Kuma Reality Games, the video game developer he worked for, "was receiving money from the C.I.A. to produce and design movies and games with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East."

His confession continued, "The goal of the [video game] company was to convince the people of Iran and the people of the entire world that whatever the U.S. does in other countries is a good measure."

Hekmati also admitted to spying on Iran for the C.I.A. in his confession, which was aired on Iranian state television in December. Whether those claims and any of the other claims Hekmati made in his confession are true is debatable and unknown, as it is unsure whether his confession was made under duress.

Game blog Kotaku found evidence that Hekmati did indeed work for Kuma. While the game company declined to comment on whether it had employed Hekmati or not, Kuma chief Keith Halper did admit in 2006 to taking contract work to develop training software for the U.S. Army, though he did not state that the developer received funding from the C.I.A. or any other U.S. government organization.

Kuma\War, a reality-based shooter game released in 2004, recreates real-world conflicts and features episodes in which players can track down and kill terrorists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. A recent scenario in Kuma\War took place in Iran and tasked players with infiltrating a secret facility to destroy the country's nuclear weapons program.

The C.I.A. declined to comment after the broadcasted confession, while the United States government has demanded Hekmati's release.

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