A judge in Washington DC ordered the release of two men arrested last week into family custody, saying prosecutors failed to prove a foreign connection.

United States District Court Magistrate Judge G Michael Harvey, after four detention hearings, released Arian Taherzadeh, 40 and Haidar Ali, 35, after prosecutors argued that they would pose a danger to the community. The judge ruled that prosecutors did not prove that the suspects had some foreign links, which would pose a danger to others, Iran International correspondent Arash Alaei reported.

Prosecutors asked for detention of suspects to continue until 9:00 am Wednesday for time to appeal the decision to release them.

Taherzadeh, with an Iranian and Ali with a Pakistani origin were arrested after federal authorities learned that they were impersonating United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents and trying to befriend Secret Service and other federal personnel. Prosecutors say the suspects gave or offered lavish gifts to the government agents and possessed a range of law enforcement equipment and weapons.

During the detention hearings their defense attorneys argued that prosecutors took their clients’ actions out of context.

On the second day of a detention hearing on Monday, Judge Harvey said he had authority to convict the pair and sentence them to three years’ jail.

Defense attorneys on the third day of the hearing Tuesday morning said their clients had not obstructed justice, that the federal prosecutor had jumped to conclusions, and that the men’s actions had been overblown into a media frenzy, which has included talks of links to Iranian intelligence.

Prosecutors told the third session of the hearing that four federal agents were “compromised” because of contacts with the suspects. One is a Secret Service agent in First Lady Jill Biden’s protection detail. However, prosecutors are still not accusing the men of being agents for a foreign intelligence service, although they continue to look into that.

It is not clear why the suspects spent large suns of money to give gifts to federal personnel and maintain several expensive apartments in a Washington DC building, offering their targets free occupancy in these units. Taherzadeh also got access to the building’s security system and was monitoring the residents.

Taherzadeh’s lawyer Michelle Peterson said her client was charged with bribing federal agents due to an offer of cigars. "They have jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable over the most scant of evidence," she said.

In response to Judge Harvey calling Taherzadeh “a danger to the community” because he possessed rifles, Peterson said her client was “not a flight risk or violent, and must be freed.” The lawyer argued that “lying about his identity to common people doesn't amount to a crime.”

Ali’s attorney Gregory Smith said the allegations were preposterous: "They have been making a mountain out of a molehill, and it is time for it to end.” Taherzadeh and Ali allegedly began posing as law enforcement agents in February 2020, the month after a US drone strike in Baghdad killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and nine others.

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