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Iranian on trial in Nigeria lacked arms licence: statement

by Staff Writers
Lagos (AFP) March 21, 2011
An alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member on trial over a weapons shipment seized in Lagos told authorities he did not have a licence to export arms, a statement read at his trial said Monday.

"My IGTCC (International General Trading and Construction Company), registered in Gambia, does not have import licence by Iranian government or Nigerian government to import or export arms to Nigeria or the Gambia or any other country," Azim Aghajani, 44, said in his statement read out in court.

The statement was made at the secret police headquarters in Abuja on February 11, the court was told.

The suspect, along with his Nigerian co-accused, Ali Abbas Jega, are standing trial over the alleged illegal importation of rockets, explosives and grenades seized at a Lagos port in October.

They have denied the four charges against them, which accuse the two suspects of illegally importing the arms and say the weapons were under their control.

They are also accused of having falsely declared the 13 containers seized at a Lagos port as building materials.

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

Iran has said the weapons were intended for Gambia and were part of an agreement between that country and Tehran. Gambia has denied it was the intended recipient.

Both Gambia and Senegal have cut ties with Iran over the shipment, with Dakar raising concerns that the weapons could end up in the hands of rebels in the country's south.

Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, which has approved four sets of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The sanctions include a ban on arms sales.

Judge Okechukwu Okeke said that a bail hearing for the two suspects would begin on Tuesday.

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