Update 12:24 p.m.:  The United States has denied Hekmati worked for the CIA, reports the AP and is reporting that the White House is closely monitoring the Hekmati's situation.

Amir Hekmati, an American citizen who was accused by Iran of being a spy for the CIA, has been sentenced to death by that country's Revolutionary Court. Hekmati served as a U.S. Marine in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where Iranian prosecutors say he received espionage training before attempting to infiltrate their country. Back in December, the Iranians announced his arrest by broadcasting a taped confession on state television where Hekmati admitted to working for the CIA and offering to sell information to the government to gain their trust. He was since convicted of being "corrupt on Earth" and "waging war on God" for cooperating with a hostile country and trying to implicate them in a terrorist conspiracy.

Hekmati, who was born in the United States, is of Iranian decent and speaks fluent English and Farsi. His family in America says he worked as a translator, both during and after his service, but was simply visiting his grandmothers when he went to Iran. They have also complained that he had inadequate representation and that no one from the U.S. or the Swiss Embassy (which handles diplomatic relations for the U.S. in Iran) has had access to Hekmati since his arrest.

As with any case involving espionage, there's no way to know the truth behind either side of the story, but regardless of the facts, the sentencing will only heighten tensions between two countries who don't need another reason to hate each other. The Americans have demanded his return, but there's a good chance that Hekmati could be used as a bargaining chip in the ongoing oil/nuclear standoff. Or he may be executed simply to send a message to the U.S. (The Iranians also claim they have arrested other spies sent to disrupt upcoming elections.) Whether Hekamti is really involved in the spy world or not, distrust between the two nations could not get much higher.