Tuesday, September 23, 2008

High-ranking Iranian officer facing charges of trying to export US missile parts, was released from custody after a Thais denied his extradition to US

AP (Via War&Piece) : "A high-ranking Iranian air force officer facing charges of trying to export U.S. missile parts to Iran was released from custody after a Thai court denied his extradition. Jamshid Ghassemi, 57, was released after a Thai appellate court upheld rejection of the U.S. extradition request, U.S. authorities were told by Thai officials last week. "We were disappointed with the Thai court's decision," said Cynthia Brown, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. "We believe that the law and facts supported the extradition of Mr. Ghassemi to the United States." The episode comes as the U.S. is seeking to extradite alleged Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, dubbed "The Merchant of Death," on charges of conspiring to kill Americans. A U.S. agent testified in a Thai court Monday that Bout is one of the world's biggest arms dealers. It also comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran pursues a nuclear program in defiance of U.S. and international demands.

Ghassemi was charged in October 2006 by a federal grand jury in San Diego with conspiring to buy 12 accelerometers. The model of the Honeywell International Inc. devices he allegedly sought are for missile guidance and banned for export without permission from the State Department. The complaint says Ghassemi wired $70,000 from a bank in Romania to San Diego to pay for the devices, which were to be sent to Bucharest. He was arrested in Bangkok in November 2006 and faced up to 45 years prison if convicted of weapons export and money laundering charges. A spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry, Tharit Charungvat, said the court's ruling should be respected. "The decision was reached after a due court process during which every party involved was given a chance to present their cases," he said. "There was an appeal process which gave both sides another chance to present their evidence." Court documents are not public in Thailand, but a defense affidavit in Thailand obtained by The Associated Press makes several arguments for Ghassemi's release, all of them challenged by U.S. authorities.

Ghassemi's Thai attorney said that the U.S. filed extradition documents too late, that Ghassemi would be tortured in the U.S. to reveal military secrets, and that the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Thailand exempts "military" offenses. The case is unusual because the devices are far more sophisticated than typical arms trafficking cases involving Iran, which typically involve parts to replace its aging fleet of jets that the U.S. supplied before shah's fall in 1979, according to U.S. law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly. One U.S. official said Ghassemi was a significant player because the technology he sought was so sophisticated. "They are extremely sensitive items. That's why they're so tightly controlled," the official said. U.S. officials said the parts were likely intended for Iran's Shahab short- and medium-range missiles. The case is also striking because Ghassemi was a high-ranking military officer in Iran, U.S. authorities said. [...] U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began investigating after an agency source said he met Ghassemi about five times in Tehran to discuss buying aircraft parts for Iran and suggested shipping them from the U.S. through Dubai, South Africa or South Korea, U.S. authorities said. They said Ghassemi told the source he could pocket at least $400,000 in six months. ....

No comments: