• Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Send to Kindle

U.S. Judge Challenges Government’s Effort to Drop Charges Against Iran Sanctions Violator

A United States District Court judge challenged the government’s decision to dismiss charges against an Iranian man accused of sanctions violations, Reuters reported on Monday.

The U.S. government moved to dismiss charges against Alireza Moazami Goudarzi, who allegedly attempted to buy prohibited military equipment on behalf of Iran, as part of a deal that led the Islamic Republic to release five American hostages last month. U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel said in a court order last week that he would deny the dismissal “unless prosecutors could justify the ‘significant foreign policy interests'” that it would result in. Castel argued that the case should not be dropped if it entailed “considerations clearly contrary to the public interest.”

Castel is the only judge who has challenged the government’s requests for dismissal. His order was prompted by Goudarzi’s co-defendant, who complained that he is currently serving a nine-year sentence for the same crime Goudarzi has been accused of.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said that dismissing the charges against Goudarzi and 13 other Iranians was essential in gaining the freedom of U.S. citizens held by Iran. He told Castel that the release was a “one-time, unique agreement based on extraordinary circumstances,” and that the “United States government has made clear to the government of Iran that the United States does not expect to repeat these actions.”

Cronan added that authorities haven’t been able to locate Goudarzi since 2012 and that there is no “realistic prospect” of arresting him any time soon.

In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration had expedited the release of four Iranians, among them arms smugglers, in order to keep the nuclear talks with Iran going.

In addition to dropping charges against the 14 Iranians, the U.S. agreed to grant clemency to seven others – six of whom hold dual U.S. citizenship – who were charged with involvement in cyber-warfare and smuggling related to Iran’s illicit nuclear activities, and to release $1.7 billion to Iran. The terms of the payment have raised concerns that it was ransom for hostages.

The U.S. also agreed to drop a $10 million court claim against one of the released Iranians.

Just before the release of the five Americans, Iran detained the mother and wife of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, nearly derailing the deal to release him and four other hostages. That same day, three American contractors in Iraq were reportedly kidnapped by Iran-backed Shiite militias.

[Photo: Ken Lund / Flickr ]