AFP: A Nigerian court on Tuesday set a new trial date for later this month for an alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member charged over an illegal arms shipment seized in October in the West African country.
LAGOS, February 1, 2011 (AFP) – A Nigerian court on Tuesday set a new trial date for later this month for an alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member charged over an illegal arms shipment seized in October in the West African country.
Azim Aghajani and Nigerian suspect Ali Abbas Jega pleaded not guilty to three counts related to the arms shipment at the federal high court in Lagos, a day after the case was transferred from Abuja.
Judge Okechukwu Okeke adjourned the hearing to February 15 for “an expeditious trial of the matter because of its international connotations.”
The case has drawn international concern since the illegal arms shipment, which included rockets and grenades, could violate UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.
Okeke also agreed with the prosecution that the suspects be remanded in the custody of Nigeria’s secret police.
Defence lawyer Adabayo Onifade had urged the court to remand the accused in prisons custody so that the defence team could have access to them.
The accused were immediately driven away by gun-wielding state security agents after the hearing amid heavy security in and around the Lagos court.
Prosecutors had withdrawn charges against the accused in a court in Abuja on Monday and said they had filed the case in Lagos, where the arms were seized in October.
Charges were dropped against two other Nigerians accused in the case, but no reason was given.
Aghajani and the three Nigerians had been charged in connection with a shipment of 13 containers of weapons loaded at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and seized by Nigerian officials in Lagos in October.
After the containers arrived in Nigeria, the shipper asked to have them reloaded and sent to Gambia.
Nigeria reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, which has approved four sets of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The sanctions include a ban on arms sales.
A UN panel of experts on sanctions on Iran was recently in Nigeria to investigate the weapons shipment. Iran has said the shipment was sent by a private company.