Page last updated at 21:54 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Iranian jailed in US for arms trafficking plot

US Attorney David C. Weiss
Attorney David Weiss revealed the unsealed Ardebili papers this month

An Iranian man has been jailed for five years in the US after admitting plotting to procure and smuggle arms to Iran, prosecutors say.

Amir Ardebili was seized by undercover US agents overseas in 2007 following a five-year investigation.

In May 2008, he pleaded guilty to arms trafficking, but this was only revealed two weeks ago.

Iran complained to United Nations officials in October about how the US had seized Ardebili.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has likened the case to three US hikers who were detained after crossing the border from Iraq.

'Acquiring components'

A federal prosecutor in the state of Delaware, Assistant Attorney David Hall, said Ardebili had acquired thousands of items, including military aircraft parts, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal (file images)
Iran has linked the case to that of the detained US hikers

Mr Hall said Ardebili had been arrested in the Republic of Georgia in October 2007.

The defendant was extradited to the US in January 2008.

When the documents on his case were unsealed this month, US attorney David Weiss said: "For years, the defendant was in the business of acquiring components, many with military applications, for the government of Iran.

"The government's investigation and prosecution has put the defendant out of business and removed this threat to our national security."

Ardebili, also known as Amir Ahkami and Alex Dave, is reported to have said his intention was to protect Iran from missile attacks.

His court appearance in May 2008 was reportedly conducted under high security.

The windows of the court room were covered and a guard placed outdoors, the Delaware News Journal reported.

Ardebili is one of a number of Iranian citizens Mr Ahmadinejad noted last month that the United States was detaining.

Analysts say Iran may try to use these detentions in negotiations for the release of the three hikers.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the hikers, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, would stand trial, although he did not specify on which charges.

They have previously been accused of illegal entry and spying.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any charges would be unfounded and she called on Tehran to release the three immediately.

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