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France court refuses to extradite Iranian engineer to US

A French appeals court on Monday refused a US extradition request for Iranian engineer Majid Kakavand, accused of illegally exporting electronic equipment to Iran for military use. Kakavand was detained in France in March 2009 after the US government issued a warrant for his arrest. Kakavand was indicted in April on charges [DOJ fact sheet, PDF] of purchasing thousands of military items from US companies and exporting them to Iran via Malaysia in violation of US sanctions against Iraq. The French court ruled that Kakavand had not violated French law [RFI report], a prerequisite to extradition. A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] expressed disappointment at the ruling but said the US would continue to pursue [AP report] Kakavand. Iranian authorities have repeatedly sought Kakavand's release. Kakavand has said that he plans to return to Iran after being freed.

Iran is currently facing possible UN sanctions over its nuclear program. Last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] strongly criticized [JURIST report] new attempts to impose UN sanctions. The Iranian leader said that actions being taken by the US and its allies in the UN Security Council [official website] are illegal and that his country will not accept any pressure. In September, Ahmadinejad denied [JURIST report] that Iran had broken nuclear development regulations in respect to a newly-disclosed nuclear facility. The statement followed a press conference where US, British, French, and German leaders said in a joint statement [press release] that Iran had violated the terms of agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] by failing to disclose in a timely manner the existence of a nuclear facility. Under the terms [IAEA board report, PDF] of a 2003 protocol [text, PDF] to Iran's original IAEA Safeguards Agreement [text, PDF], Iran was obligated to disclose the existence of the plant prior to construction. Iran has previously said it will completely withdraw [JURIST report] from the IAEA if its "nuclear rights" are taken away.

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