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Yet Mr. Ahmadinejad also has used the case to draw attention to Iranians held in the United States.

In particular, he drew a link to the trial in the United States of Amir Hossein Ardebili, an Iranian who was sentenced to five years in prison last year after pleading guilty to plotting to ship sensitive U.S. military technology to Iran.

According to court papers, Mr. Ardebili worked as a procurement agent for the Iranian government and acquired thousands of components, including military aircraft parts, night vision devices, communications equipment and Kevlar body armor. U.S. authorities targeted him in 2004 after he contacted an undercover storefront set up in Philadelphia to investigate illegal arms trafficking.

The current case in Tehran recalls that of American-Iranian journalist Roxanna Saberi, who was arrested in Iran in January 2009 and convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison. She was freed on appeal in May 2009.

A political analyst at the independent Mardomsalari newspaper in Tehran, Hamid Reza Shokouhi, said the secretive nature of the court proceedings is “not necessarily a negative point” for the jailed Americans. He said that past experiences, such as Ms. Saberi’s case, showed that the judiciary eventually can show a “positive attitude.”