NEW YORK (Jan. 28)
Several of the defendants in the arms to Iran case here have received the court’s permission to return to their home countries until their trial. But the court is delaying granting similar requests by Israeli defendants because the Israeli government has refused to give assurances sought by the court.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand said in a hearing on the bail extensions Wednesday that he is seeking written or oral assurances from the Israeli government that it will in no way impede the return of the Israeli defendants to the U.S. for a trial or other proceedings in the case.
Four of the 17 defendants charged with conspiracy to sell U.S. weapons to Iran — Brig. Gen. Avraham Bar-Am, Guri and Israel Eisenberg, and William Northrop — have all asked to extend the conditions of their bail to allow them to return to their homes in Israel because the trial date has been postponed to May 18, at the earliest.
The court has in the past week granted such permission to one British and to one German defendant and to Sam Evans, the alleged middle-man in the conspiracy, who is named in every count in the indictment.
The prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Lorna Schofield, told the court Wednesday that she had contacted the U.S State Department to discuss the issue. The State Department had forwarded the court’s request to the Israeli government. But the Israeli government “was not prepared to make any such assurances,” Schofield said.
Neal Hurwitz, attorney for the Eisenbergs, said he believes the Israeli government’s position is the only impediment preventing the Eisenbergs from receiving permission to go home.
INDICATION BY ISRAELI DEFENDANTS
The Israeli defendants have indicated in the past that they were working with the knowledge and tacit approval of the Israeli government. After Wednesday’s hearing, one of the Israeli defendants said he was working on behalf of the Israeli government. But the Israeli government has totally dissociated itself from the defendants in the case and has not intervened to assist them in any way.
The indictment handed up in April charged the four Israelis and other defendants with conspiracy to sell American made weapons to Iran, some of which were in Israeli stockpiles, and with breaking American laws forbidding any such transactions. In the same time period covered in the indictment, January through April 1986, President Reagan secretly authorized the sale of American weapons to Iran. Some of those transactions involved Israel as a third party.
In past months, attorneys in the case have filed papers with the court tying certain defendants in this case to those involved in the government-sanctioned arms deals with Iran.
Paul Grand, attorney for Evans, has recently filed a new document with the court which links Evans and the other defendants even more intimately with major players in the U.S. government Iran arms deals, including Adnan Khashoggi, Roy Furmark and Manucher Ghorbanifar and officials of the Israeli, American and British governments.
ELEMENTS IN THE GRAND DOCUMENT
The Grand document tells the following story: American-born Evans lived and worked as a lawyer in London. One of his clients was Khashoggi. Evans was aware of the covert U.S foreign policy from information he received from Khashoggi and a number of other independent and reliable sources, according to Grand.
In January, 1985, Roy Furmark, another client of Evans, introduced Evans to Cyrus Hashemi, an Iranian arms buyer who turned U.S. government informant in the case and set up the “sting” leading to the defendants’ arrest and indictment. Furmark, a close friend of CIA director William Casey, reportedly alerted Casey in October 1986 that money from secret arms sales to Iran was being diverted to Nicaraguan rebels or Contras.
Furmark, at this time, informed Evans that Casey had told him the U.S. had supplied and approved the supply of U.S. arms to Iran. As a result of this information and the introductions, Khashoggi, Hashemi and Furmark formed World Trade Group, a joint venture which would, among other things, supply U.S. arms to Iran. Khashoggi assured Evans on many occasions between early 1985 and mid-1986 that the U.S. would approve covert arms sales to Iran, according to Grand.
Khashoggi met with then National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane in early 1985 to discuss covert arms sales to Iran, according to media reports.
To further the business of World Trade Group, the principals held a series of meetings in Hamburg, West Germany between January 13 and 17. Among others attending the meetings were, Evans, Khashoggi, Furmark, Hashemi and Manucher Ghorbanifar, the central Iranian middleman involved in all U.S. sanctioned arms sales to Iran during 1985 and 1986.
FURTHER CONTACTS FOLLOWED
As a result of these meetings, Khashoggi and Hashemi went to Israel and met then Prime Minister Shimon Peres to discuss arms sales. Further contacts between Israeli and U.S. officials followed.
Khashoggi and Hashemi eventually split up and pursued arms deals separately, according to the Grand document. Khashoggi was successful. Hashemi was not.
Grand contends that Evans had no criminal intent in negotiating with Hashemi and other defendants in the case for the arms deals because he believed approval from the U.S. government would be forthcoming.
Grand asked the court not to accept the prosecutor’s assurances that this case has no connection to the U.S.-approved covert arms sales without a further investigation.
Schofield said she was told by an unnamed Justice Department official that there was no connection between this case and the approved deals.