Envoy to Italy May Be Queried in Iran Arms Smuggling Case
Lawyers for one of the defendants accused of plotting to smuggle American-made weapons to Iran may take sworn testimony from the U.S. ambassador to Italy about his knowledge of the deal, a judge ruled Friday.
U.S. Dist. Judge Leonard B. Sand granted the motion by lawyers for Nico Minardos to take a deposition from Ambassador Maxwell Raab.
Minardos, 54, of Beverly Hills, one of 13 people accused of plotting to ship $2-billion worth of sophisticated weaponry to Iran, has asserted that he informed Raab about the proposed deal last February to make sure there was no problem with it.
Some of the defendants have claimed they were told the shipments, which were never made or paid for, were approved by “the highest levels of the Reagan Administration.”
No Records of Agreement
Prosecutors have denied there are records of any such agreement and maintained that the conspiracy alleged in the indictment had nothing to do with recent White House-approved shipments of “defensive weapons” and parts to Iran.
President Reagan last week denied that the arms shipments were made to get the Iranian government to intercede with Islamic militants holding Americans hostage in Lebanon.
In granting the defense motion, Sand stressed he was not ruling on whether Raab’s deposition would be admissible at the trial, which has been scheduled for February in federal court in Manhattan.
Asst. U.S. Atty. Lorna Schofield opposed the defense motion, claiming Raab’s testimony was not relevant to the case.
Minardos’ attorney, Ronald Kuby, said the defense wanted to question Raab “because people in this case who are important to the defense seem to die.”
He was referring to the prosecution’s chief witness, Iranian expatriate Cyrus Hashemi, who died, reportedly of leukemia, in London earlier this year.
Civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, another one of Minardos’ lawyers, last week asked Sand to order the exhumation of Hashemi’s remains from a New Jersey cemetery, claiming “there is a strong possibility Hashemi was murdered.”
Sand denied the request but said Kunstler could raise it again.
Hashemi pretended to be a representative of the Iranian government in what prosecutors contend was a “sting” operation against the alleged conspirators in the arms-smuggling case.