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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Azim Aghajani, Quds Chife in Africa, Accused of Deception in Arms Trafficking

A Nigerian on trial over an arms shipment seized in Lagos told authorities an alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member lied to him about the containers' contents, court documents said Tuesday.

In his statement made to secret police and read out in court, Ali Abbas Jega said that his co-accused, Azim Aghajani, "deceived" him into believing that the consignment contained building materials.

"Azim duped and deceived me to use my office address to receive the consignment ... he told me they were building materials and not weapons," the statement said.

Jega's lawyer, Aliyu Musa Yawuri, also told the court that documents indicated the shipment was wrongly routed to Nigeria.

"They were meant for Gambia," he stated.

Iran has already said the shipment was destined for Gambia and was part of an agreement between the two countries, but Banjul has denied being the intended recipient and has severed ties with Tehran.

Senegal has also cut ties with Iran and expressed concern that the weapons could have ended up in the hands of rebels in its south.

The two accused are on trial together in a Nigerian court for allegedly importing bombs, grenades and rockets sent from Iran and seized in October at a Lagos port.

The prosecution accuses the two suspects of illegally importing them and say the weapons were under their control. They are also accused of having falsely declared the 13 containers as building materials.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to four counts against them.

The case has drawn international attention because it may constitute a violation of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, which has approved four sets of sanctions against Iran, including a ban on arms sales.

A UN panel of experts on sanctions on Iran was in Nigeria earlier this year to investigate the weapons shipment.

The judge adjourned the trial until March 21, when prosecutors are expected to question additional witnesses

The Rest @ AFP

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