German authorities announced today they had filed charges against two men believed to have provided Iran with technology that could be used to build nuclear-ready long-range missiles, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, April 7).
German businessman Heinz Ulrich K., 65 and Iranian national Mohsen A., 52, are alleged to have purchased from a German company a furnace employed in preparing missile guidance technology and warheads to withstand intense heat.
The Iranian citizen — cited in media reports in his home nation as Mohsen Afrasiabi — was formally accused in April of involvement in the scheme, along with German-Iranian engineer Behzad S., 49. In charges lodged Aug. 5, Germany prosecutors said they were widening the scope of the charges targeting Afrasiabi. He is expected to be put on trial at an undisclosed date in the city of Düsseldorf.
Afrasiabi was apprehended in October and freed on bond in April, German authorities said. Ulrich K. is also not presently behind bars. The two men are alleged to have contravened a weapon export ban in addition to violating European Union rules that prohibit the sale of dual-use equipment to Iran.
The European Union, the United States and other governments believe Tehran is seeking a nuclear-weapon capability, but Iran insists its atomic program is entirely peaceful (see related GSN story, today).
“Iran has been developing since the late 1990s at the latest long-range missiles to carry weapons of mass destruction,” German prosecutors asserted.
“To get around export restrictions, Iran is acquiring the necessary advanced technology for its missile program via third companies,” they added.
Authorities allege Afrasiabi in 2004 was assigned by a “leading employee of Iran’s missile program” to buy the furnace, which he did three years later for approximately $1.1 million. The furnace was transported to Iran and the German supplier started to prepare it for use in March 2008.
Work was halted, though, once the firm became aware of concerns the furnace was being built on behalf of the Iranian government, according to AFP. By then, however, the Iranian customers were able to continue work on the furnace without the company’s aid. It is not known if the furnace was ultimately put to use (Agence France-Presse/Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 19).
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