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US seeks to nix charges against Iranian man in prisoner swap

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New York: The US government has urged a Manhattan judge to drop charges against an Iranian man to satisfy the terms of a prisoner swap between the countries.

Assistant US Attorney John Cronan yesterday told US District Judge Kevin Castel that charges against Alireza Goudarzi should be dismissed as part of a “one-time, unique agreement” to get US prisoners held in Iran released.

Goudarzi, 31, has been a fugitive since the Malaysian government refused his extradition to the United States after he was arrested by Malaysian authorities in October 2012 to face charges that he was illegally trying to buy military parts. He was later freed.

President Barack Obama announced the deal last month granting clemency to six Iranian-Americans and one Iranian serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United States. The deal also called for the dismissal of charges against 14 Iranians, including Goudarzi.

In a letter to the judge, Cronan said there was no realistic expectation that the United States would be able to arrest and extradite Goudarzi in the future since there were no promising leads to his whereabouts.

He also noted that none of the individuals granted clemency had been charged with terrorism or violent offenses. He called their release a “one-time gesture to Iran, given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances surrounding the release of American prisoners in Iran.”

Goudarzi was indicted in November 2012 on six counts, alleging that from October 2010 to October 2012 he conspired to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by violating US trade sanctions against Iran. That law allows the president to impose economic sanctions against another country.

The judge had directed the government to explain why he should not deny its request, since it had said little more than that its decision was “based on significant foreign policy interests.”

Cronan noted that the US government has made clear to Iran that the prisoner swap would not affect how the Justice Department prosecutes future cases involving Iranians.

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