Iran General NewsFla. jury deliberating Iranian night goggles case

Fla. jury deliberating Iranian night goggles case

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ImageAP: A federal jury began deliberations Wednesday in the case of an Iranian woman accused of scheming with her ex-husband to obtain thousands of sophisticated military night-vision goggles for Iran's police and army.

The Associated Press

By CURT ANDERSON

ImageFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A federal jury began deliberations Wednesday in the case of an Iranian woman accused of scheming with her ex-husband to obtain thousands of sophisticated military night-vision goggles for Iran's police and army.

Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan, who is acting as her own lawyer, insisted she is innocent and pleaded with jurors to consider why she would voluntarily travel to the U.S. face the charges if she were guilty.

"I don't know what else I could have done to prove my innocence," Gholikhan, who insisted on wearing her tan jail outfit during her weeklong trial, said in her closing argument. "I cannot accept what I didn't do."

The jury deliberated about four hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict and will return Thursday.

Gholikhan, 31, and ex-husband Mahmoud Seif are charged with conspiring to purchase 3,500 Generation III night-vision goggles for Iran in violation of the U.S. embargo against that country and strict export controls on the goggles. The goggles, described by prosecutors as top of the line, are made mainly for U.S. special forces and the Israeli military.

The couple was arrested in Vienna, Austria, in 2004 after a hotel meeting with undercover U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents posing as brokers for the goggles. Gholikhan spent a month in an Austrian jail and was released; her husband was also detained but eventually returned to Iran, where he remains.

The case has taken unusual twists and turns. Gholikhan came to the U.S in December 2007 and initially pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count expecting a swift return to her twin 12-year-old daughters in Iran. But her plea deal fell apart because of an error in the estimated sentence that left her looking at more than two years in prison instead of time served.

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn permitted Gholikhan to withdraw her guilty plea in June. The first trial on a seven-count indictment ended in a hung jury, and prosecutors are trying again to convict her. She could get more than 20 years behind bars if convicted on all counts.

Prosecutor Michael Walleisa said dozens of taped phone calls and e-mail intercepts proved Gholikhan was deeply involved in the plot, using the alias "Farideh Fahimi" with a government informant and many others. "Fahimi" shared Gholikhan's e-mail address and telephone number.

"This defendant was a knowing and willing participant. She is not a blind innocent," Walleisa said. "She's resourceful, cunning, manipulative and independent."

But Gholikhan said she was under Seif's firm control and Fahimi was a Syrian woman who worked for him. She described Seif as abusive and said U.S. prosecutors should focus on him.

"I was used and abused in every possible way by Mr. Seif. He is devil by himself," Gholikhan said. "Who said I am responsible to pay for his mistakes? I am fed up."

Gholikhan said she hopes to return to Iran, get her daughters and settle in Cyprus.

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