x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Iranian who plotted to assassinate Saudi ambassador in US gets 25 years

An Iranian-born used car salesman from Texas has been sentenced to 25 years in a US prison after pleading guilty to participating in a plot with an Iranian military unit to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

NEW YORK // An Iranian-born used car salesman from Texas was sentenced to 25 years in a US prison yesterday after pleading guilty to participating in a plot with an Iranian military unit to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Manssor Arbabsiar, 58, received the sentence at a hearing before US District Judge John Keenan in Manhattan. He had pleaded guilty in October 2012 to charges related to his seeking to hire Mexican drug traffickers to kill the ambassador in a plot that was vehemently denied by Tehran.

The supposed member of the international drug trafficking cartel whom Arbabsiar offered to pay US$1.5 million (D5.5m) to carry out the plot was in reality a confidential informant of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

No weapons were ever obtained and the scheme to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al Jubeir was not fulfilled.

"I can't change what I did," Arbabsiar said in a brief statement in court.

US authorities also brought charges against Gholam Shakuri. Prosecutors say he was a member of the Quds Force, the covert unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Mr Shakuri has not been arrested.

US prosecutors sought the statutory maximum sentence of 25 years for Arbabsiar, saying in a court filing May 2 that the "seriousness of this offence and importance of deterrence in this context cannot be overstated".

Manhattan Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement called Arbabsiar "an enemy among us" and a "key conduit for, and facilitator of, a nefarious international plot" to kill the ambassador and as many innocent bystanders needed to finish the job.

Lawyers for Arbabsiar had sought a lower sentence of 10 years, contending he had provided assistance to US authorities after his arrest and citing purported mental health issues.

But Mr Keenan emphasised the need to send a message to those who might consider future crimes like Arbabsiar's "will not be tolerated" in the United States.

"In a case like this, deterrence is of extreme importance," Mr Keenan said.