Iranians plead guilty after arrest for spying on dissidents

US Justice Department building is seen in Washington, US, December 7, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 07 November 2019

Iranians plead guilty after arrest for spying on dissidents

  • Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar and Majid Ghorbani tried to penetrate the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)

WASHINGTON: Two men arrested last year for spying on Iranian dissidents in the United States have pleaded guilty to charges in a Washington court, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Iranian-US dual citizen Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar and Majid Ghorbani, an Iranian resident of California, tried to penetrate the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group of Iranian dissidents in exile, in New York and Washington from 2017-2018, according to the department.
Doostdar traveled to the United States form Iran on three occasions to recruit Ghorbani and give him instructions and thousands of dollars in payments, according to the charges.
Ghorbani attended MEK rallies and events, taking pictures of participants and collecting information for Doostdar.
Doostdar pleaded guilty to charges of acting as an unregistered agent of the government of Iran, while Ghorbani pleaded guilty to violating US sanctions laws with respect to Iran.
In announcing their guilty pleas, the Justice Department did not repeat allegations made when the two were arrested that Doostdar had also surveilled Jewish Institutions in Chicago during a 2017 visit.
Doostdar faces up to 15 years in prison while Ghorbar could be jailed for a maximum 20 years.
“The Iranian government thought it could get away with conducting surveillance on individuals in the United States by sending one of its agents here to task a permanent resident with conducting and collecting that surveillance,” said Jessie Liu, the US attorney for Washington.
“This case highlights our efforts to pursue those who threaten national security and disrupt foreign governments that target US persons.”


Sudan’s Bashir awaits his fate in corruption trial

Updated 14 December 2019

Sudan’s Bashir awaits his fate in corruption trial

  • Khartoum court is expected to hand down its verdict today
  • If found guilty, Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir could be sent to prison for up to 10 years

KHARTOUM: A verdict in the corruption trial of Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir is expected Saturday, eight months after the military deposed the strongman during unprecedented mass protests against his three-decade rule.
Bashir is charged with illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.
If found guilty, he could be sent to prison for up to 10 years.
The Khartoum court is expected to hand down its verdict at 10:00 a.m.
Bashir was toppled by the army on April 11 after months of mass demonstrations triggered by an acute economic crisis.
He has attended several hearings since the trial began in August, appearing in a metal cage wearing the traditional Sudanese white jalabiya and turban.
At the start of the trial, judge Sadeq Abdelrahman said authorities had seized 6.9 million euros as well as $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds ($128,000) from Bashir’s home.
While the former president admitted to having received a total of $90 million from Saudi leaders, the trial centers on the $25 million received from Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Bashir said the money seized from his home came out of the $25 million.
The funds, he said, formed part of Sudan’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and were “not used for private interests but as donations.”
Bashir’s lawyer Mohamed Al-Hassan told reporters the ex-president’s defense does not see the trial as a legal case, but as “a political” one.
The trial does not relate to charges Bashir faces at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Bashir has been wanted by the ICC for years for his role in the Darfur war that broke out in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against his Arab-dominated government which they accused of marginalizing the region.
Rights groups say Khartoum applied targeted suspected pro-rebel ethnic groups with a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.
The Darfur conflict left around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.
After Bashir was toppled, ICC prosecutors requested he stand trial for the killings in Darfur.
Army generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand over the 75-year-old.
But Sudan’s umbrella protest movement, which now has significant representation on a sovereign council that in August became the country’s highest executive authority — recently said it has no objection to his extradition.
Separately, on November 12, Sudanese authorities filed charges against Bashir and some of his aides for “plotting” the 1989 coup that brought him to power.
In May, Sudan’s attorney general said Bashir had been charged with the deaths of those killed during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to his ouster, without specifying when he would face trial.