During a second detention hearing in a Washington DC court, prosecutors said they are looking to see if two suspects arrested last week have any foreign links.

Lawyers for the two men arrested last week for allegedly posing as United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents have said prosecutors took their actions out of context.

Arian Taherzadeh, 40, with Iranian origin and Haider Ali, 35, originally from Pakistan, both US citizens, are charged with impersonating a federal officer. But authorities allege that the suspects lavished expensive gifts on Secrete Service and other federal personnel, ostensibly to get close to them.

On the first day of a detention hearing in Washington DC Monday, Judge G Michael Harvey said he had authority to convict the pair and sentence them to three years’ jail, Iran International’s Arash Alaei reported from the courtroom.

Defense attorneys on the second day of the hearing on Tuesday 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 second 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.

News Summary
Emrouz
Economics Daily

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