AP: France on Wednesday voiced its opposition to a U.S. extradition request for an Iranian accused of evading export controls to purchase technology over the Internet to sell to Iran's military. The Associated Press
By NICOLAS VAUX-MONTAGNY
PARIS (AP) — France on Wednesday voiced its opposition to a U.S. extradition request for an Iranian accused of evading export controls to purchase technology over the Internet to sell to Iran's military.
The United States is seeking the extradition from France of Majid Kakavand, a 37-year-old engineer. The U.S. claims he went online to purchase sensitive U.S. electronics and had them shipped to Malaysia, then on to Iranian military entities.
At a court hearing, state prosecutor Sophie Gulphe-Berbain contested the claim that products Kakavand sold could be used for military purposes. She said France's General Directorate for Armaments concluded that the items in question, including capacitors, inductors, resistors, sensors and connectors, were "not dual use" and need "neither agreement nor prior authorization" for export.
The United States contends that the products can be used in both civilian and military capacities.
The court said it will rule May 5.
Kakavand's case has dragged on for more than a year. He was arrested in March 2009 as he arrived in Paris for a vacation with his wife. He was held in La Sante prison until Aug. 26, then released on condition he stay in Paris.
"I am not a criminal. I have not been thinking of doing anything criminal in my life," Kakavand told the court in English.
The United States accuses Kakavand of conspiracy to export to an embargoed country, money laundering, smuggling goods and other counts.
The U.S. claims the products were sent to Iran Electronics Industries, or IEI, and Iran Communication Industries — both designated for restriction in 2008 by the United States for their role in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The European Union placed restrictions on IEI in June 2008.
"IEI does not build commercial products. It builds military products," Ryan Fayhee, an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department's National Security Division, told the court in support of the extradition request.
Kakavand's lawyer Diane Francois has said the transactions in question predated the restrictions and cannot be covered by them.
Another lawyer for the Iranian, Marie-Laure Bonaldi, said the extradition demand had "purely political" motives. "Mr. Kakavand is already being exhibited like a trophy arrested in France," she told the court.