A lawyer for the Iranian-American car salesman accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. lost a bid for a delay in the case to discuss a possible resolution.
U.S. District Judge John Keenan in Manhattan rejected a request for a 30-day adjournment in the prosecution of Manssor Arbabsiar sought by Sabrina Shroff, his court-appointed attorney. She said the request was made “with the consent of the government.”
Shroff said in a letter to the court dated Feb. 5 that the postponement would allow both sides to prepare for trial and give time to “continue discussions regarding a possible disposition” of the criminal case.
“Excluding time will best serve the ends of justice and outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant,” Shroff said in the letter. Keenan rejected Shroff’s request without explanation.
Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, who the U.S. said was a member of Iran’s Qods Force, were charged in a five-count indictment filed Oct. 20 with plotting to hire someone from a Mexican drug cartel to kill Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir in the U.S. The man they approached was actually a U.S. informant, prosecutors said.
The U.S. State Department has described the Qods Force as an arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Others from the Qods Force in Iran were also involved and helped bankroll the plot, which was to have cost $1.5 million and be carried out in the U.S., prosecutors said.
Arbabsiar has pleaded not guilty. He’s the only defendant in U.S. custody. Prosecutors said Shakuri is at large.
At Arbabsiar’s October arraignment, Keenan said there would probably be an extensive pretrial exchange of evidence, including secretly taped conversations made by investigators working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some of the documents needed to be translated.
Keenan said some material included statements that Arbabsiar made.
“There are alleged admissions of guilt which may be challenged,” he said.
Shroff said in the letter that the government had produced most statements Arbabsiar made to authorities after his arrest and she needed time to review them with her client.
She didn’t return voice-mail or e-mail messages at her office after business hours seeking comment on the ruling. Jerika Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to comment.
The person Arbabsiar and Shakuri recruited to kill the ambassador was secretly working for the DEA, prosecutors said in October. Arbabsiar told the informant his cousin was a “big general” in Iran who focused on matters outside of that country, they said.
The two men discussed killing the ambassador by blowing up a restaurant that he frequented, prosecutors said. Other targets included “foreign government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country,” the U.S. said.
The case is U.S. v. Arbabsiar, 11-cr-00897, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
---Editors: Andrew Dunn, Glenn Holdcraft