x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Prosecutors seek to overturn acquittal of man in zirconium sale

Prosecutors appeal against the acquittal of a Jordanian businessman who was accused of seeking to illegally sell zirconium.

DUBAI // Prosecutors yesterday appealed against the acquittal of a Jordanian businessman who was accused of seeking to illegally sell zirconium, a metal that is used to line nuclear reactors. AA, 48, and a co-defendant were cleared on Feb 26 after an expert testified that the zirconium the defendant was accused of possessing could not have been used in a reactor. Zirconium, stripped of the element hafnium, has nuclear-reactor applications.

The sale of zirconium is controlled by treaty. In its natural form, zirconium and hafnium are chemically bound. AA was alleged to have sought an Iranian buyer. Because of that, the case became part of the controversy about Iran's nuclear programme. A hearing on the prosecution's attempt to set aside the verdict is scheduled for April 23 in Dubai Misdemeanours Appeal Court. Issam Humaidan, the Dubai attorney general, could not be reached for comment.

Last year, Mr Humaidan tied the case to the UAE's attempt to keep the region free of weapons of mass destruction. The police arranged a sting on Nov 21, 2007 after an informant told authorities that AA was offering the metal for sale and sought an Iranian buyer. After AA gave an undercover officer a small sample of the zirconium, he was arrested. He has been in jail since. The co-defendant, SB, is an Emirati lawyer who was accused of mediating a sale. The prosecution is also seeking to overturn his acquittal.

hbathish@thenational.ae