|Arbabsiar, one of the co-defendants, will have a chance to enter a plea to the charges on Monday [Reuters]|
A US grand jury has formally indicted two men suspected of being part of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US.
Thursday’s move came after US authorities announced last week that they had foiled a plot by two men linked to Iran’s security agencies to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi diplomat.
One suspect, a naturalised US citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was arrested in the US last month, while the other is believed to be in Iran.
Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, was arrested on September 29 when he arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport from Mexico.
US officials said the other man, Gholam Shakuri, is a member of Iran’s Quds Force, the covert operations arm
of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Both were initially charged in a criminal complaint.
Iran denies involvement
Iran has strongly denied any involvement in the plot, which reportedly involved the hiring of assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5m.
To set up the alleged hit, Arbabsiar allegedly arranged for the wiring of $100,000 to the US as a down payment, the indictment said.
The two co-defendants are also accused of planning for a “weapon of mass destruction” to be used against the ambassador, creating “substantial risk of serious bodily injury to others by destroying and damaging structures”.
The charges have caused another flare up in tensions between the US and Iran, already at loggerheads over US belief that Tehran is using a civilian nuclear programme to mask a bomb-making project.
Arbabsiar will have a chance to enter a plea to the charges on Monday, when he is scheduled to be arraigned. His defence lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, previously stated her client would plead not guilty.
The two men are charged with one count of conspiracy to murder a foreign official, two counts of use of interstate and
foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, and one count each of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.
John Keenan, a US district judge, will oversee the case in the Manhattan federal court in New York.