Last updated: 7 February, 2012

US trial date set for Iranian-American in death plot

A US judge Tuesday set an October 22 trial date for an Iranian-American accused of plotting with senior Tehran officials to hire Mexican gangsters to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Federal Judge John Keenan rejected a request for more time by the defense lawyer for Manssor Arbabsiar, a used car salesman from Texas with dual US-Iranian citizenship.

Arbabsiar’s lawyer, Sabrina Schroff, had asked for a later trial date, arguing that “the case is complex and the indictment is complex,” but the judge denied the request.

“I’m giving you eight months,” he told the defense lawyer. “And it’s 363 days between the first time I saw him and the trial.”

The judge ordered prosecutors to turn over relevant documents in the case to the defense by March 9.

Arbabsiar was arrested last September at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, leading to a major legal and diplomatic drama between Washington and Tehran, amid already tense relations.

He and co-defendant Gholam Shakuri, a senior member of Iran’s Quds Force who is at large, conspired to “kill the ambassador to the United States of Saudi Arabia, while the ambassador was in the United States,” according to court documents.

Iran has strongly denied any involvement in what the United States says was a plot by the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force to kill the ambassador by hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

To set up the alleged hit, Arbabsiar allegedly arranged for $100,000 to be wired to the United States as a down payment, the indictment says.