Middle East News
Suspects formally charged in alleged Iran plot in US
Oct 21, 2011, 1:41 GMT
Washington - US justice officials Thursday filed a formal indictment against the two suspects in the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
The step moves the case another step in the legal process against Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, a naturalized US citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, and Gholam Shakuri, who was identified as a member of the Quds Force special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Arbabsiar was arrested in late September and is being held on the charges, while Shakuri is still at large.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced the five-count indictment in a statement. The charges replicate those that were alleged in the criminal complaint filed last week in court.
The next step will be arraignment, where Arbabsiar will have a chance to plead guilty or not guilty. That date had originally been set for next Tuesday, but Bharara said it has not yet been scheduled.
US President Barack Obama has demanded that Iran be held accountable to the world community for its alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
US justice officials allege that the Iranian operatives engaged a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the 1.5-million-dollar assassination plot. Adel A Al-Jubeir is the current Saudi Arabian ambassador, and one of the plots would have involved a bombing at one of his favourite restaurants.
The plot raised eyebrows as sounding too far-fetched, and even FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that it 'reads like the pages of a Hollywood script.'
But he added that 'the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost.'
Iran first dismissed the allegations as baseless, but since then has said it would investigate. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has also demanded that the US extradite Arbabsiar to Iran's interest section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington.
According to the indictment, Arbabsiar and Shakuri conspired to kill the Saudi ambassador since the spring. One of the key pieces of evidence was 'approximately' 100,000 dollars that Arbabsiar wired into the United States 'as partial consideration for the murder,' the indictment says.
The two defendants 'agreed with each other and with others to use an explosive device against the ambassador,' the indictment says.
Read more about Iran