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Iranian in Saudi envoy murder plot pleads not guilty

Last updated on: October 25, 2011 02:31 IST

Iranian in Saudi envoy murder plot pleads not guilty

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Yoshita Singh in New York

An Iranian-American accused of participating in a terror plot allegedly by elements in the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, has pleaded not guilty to the charges in New York on Monday.

Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, entered the not guilty plea at his arraignment in US District Court in Manhattan to a five-count indictment returned last week.

Arbabsiar, dressed in a dark brown and blue prison smock, said "not guilty" when the court asked what plea will he enter.

US District judge John Keenan has set December 21 for Arbabsiar's next court appearance, giving prosecutors time to turn over evidence in the case and for the defence to prepare its case.

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Image: Manssor Arbabsiar
Photographs: Getty Images
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'They plotted to hire hit men to kill Saudi envoy in US using WMD'

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Arbabsiar and his co-defendant Gholam Shakuri, who remains at large, were indicted by a grand jury on October 21 on charges they plotted to hire hit men from a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington using "weapons of mass destruction".

The charges in the indictment were identical to those that were alleged in the criminal complaint filed on October 11 that said the two conspired to murder a foreign official, conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction and to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries.

According to the indictment, Arbabsiar and Shakuri conspired to "kill the ambassador to the United States of Saudi Arabia, while the ambassador was in the United States".

The plot, allegedly directed by elements of the Iranian government, involved bombing a restaurant in the US that Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir frequented.

Arbabsiar had dismissed as "no big deal" concerns an undercover agent had raised that others, including US senators who dined at the restaurant, could also be killed in the attack.


Image: File picture of Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to US
Photographs: Reuters
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'A well-thought evil plot by America'

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According to the complaint, Arbabsiar admitted to agents that, in connection with this plot, he was recruited, funded and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran's Qods Force.

He said these Iranian officials were aware of the means by which the ambassador would be killed and the casualties that would likely result.

Iran has termed US's allegations as "fabricated and baseless" saying it is a "well-thought evil plot" in line with the US anti-Iranian policy to divert attention from America's current economic problems and protests against its long supported dictatorial regimes abroad.


Image: Manssor Arbabsiar is shown in this courtroom sketch during an appearance in a Manhattan Federal Court in New York
Photographs: Reuters
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