Iran Arms Smuggling Case Judge Wants Review by Independent Counsel
NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal judge again postponed a pre-trial hearing in an Iran arms smuggling case Thursday, saying it was in ″the national interest″ to wait until the special prosecutor for the Iran-Contra arms scandal can review the case.
U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand put off the hearing until Jan. 8 at the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorna Schofield. It was the third such delay requested by prosecutors and granted by Sand in as many weeks.
Attorney General Edwin Meese III has asked for a special prosecutor, known as an independent counsel, to investigate the sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of some of the profits to Nicaraguan rebels or Contras. The independent counsel will be appointed by three federal judges.
At Thursday’s court session in Manhattan, Sand said he believed that the decision on how the national interest would be best served should be made ″after the Department of Justice and independent counsel have an opportunity to jointly consider and discuss the matter.″
Sand also said the ultimate objective of an alternative procedure to prosecution would be ″to maximize the amount of information with respect to American, Israel, Iran arms.″
Sand made his remarks after defense lawyer Louis Aidala asked the judge to instruct Ms. Schofield to explain ″what facts the government has to wait for that did not exist before.″
Sand denied Aidala’s request and noted that when he last granted an adjournment in the case, he thought appointment of an independent counsel was imminent.
Aidala represents Hans Bihn, a German national who is one of 13 people and five companies indicted for allegedly trying to smuggle $2.2 billion in sophisticated weaponry to Iran.
The defendants insist they were told the never-completed shipments had White House backing, and have filed scores of motions seeking dismissal of the charges or government documents to back up their claims.
The Justice Department has steadfastly maintained that there are no records that the defendants’ arms deals were sanctioned by the government.