CAIRO - American Muslims are offering to mediate to win the release of a US national, who is sentenced to death in Iran on espionage charges.
"It is our hope that the Iranian government will offer the same mercy and compassion to Mr. Hekmati as it recently offered to other Americans charged with similar offenses, including an Iranian-American journalist and three American hikers," Dawud Walid, Michigan Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote in letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.
An Iranian court sentenced Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a 28-year-old, to death on charges of spying for the CIA.
Iranian officials said Hekmati's cover was blown by agents for Iran who spotted him at the US-run Bagram military air base in neighboring Afghanistan.
But Hekmati's family in the United States told US media he had travelled to Iran to visit his grandmothers and was not a spy.
Hekmati was shown on state television in mid-December saying in fluent Farsi and English that he was a CIA operative sent to infiltrate Iran's intelligence ministry.
He had been arrested months earlier.
Washington had condemned the death sentence of Hekmati, a military translator of Iranian origin, saying the allegations that he worked for the CIA were "false."
Amnesty International urged Iran not to execute Hekmati after an "unfair trial."
Hekmati was tried as an Iranian citizen, not a US one, because Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
The US Muslim group called on Iranian authorities to spare Hekmati's life.
We respectfully request that you spare the life of ... Hekmati, grant him clemency and facilitate his immediate release, allowing him to return home and reunite with his family," Walid said in the letter to Iran's leader.
The Muslim leader said that community leaders are ready to travel to Tehran to help release the jailed American.
We're hopeful that Mr. Hekmati will be granted some clemency, Walid said.
If the Iranians are willing to talk regarding releasing Mr. Hekmati, then we're willing to fly to Tehran if need be.
US Muslims had earlier helped release some Americans detained in Iran.
In September, CAIR members travelled to Tehran to mediate the release of two American hikers.
The US and Iran has not had diplomatic relations since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.Under Iran's judicial system only the supreme leader can pardon convicted offenders, except in murder cases where retribution is considered a private right.