Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

“I Refused to Secretly Spy” — An Iranian-American Turned Down the FBI and Wound Up With a Prison Sentence

Posted by M. C. on February 6, 2018

It is not just foreign governments that get punished when they do not obey orders.

As Sheikhzadeh left his weekly briefing one day in March 2016, an FBI agent approached him. The agent did not immediately detain Sheikhzadeh, according to court filings; instead the investigator brought him to a hotel for questioning. Over the course of the night, the agent revealed that Sheikhzadeh was the subject of a sealed indictment in the Eastern District of New York.

Eventually, the agent made his pitch. The FBI asked Sheikhzadeh “to cooperate with the government and to spy on his employer even though the charges against him did not include anyone else employed at the Mission,” according to court documents.

When Sheikhzadeh refused, he was charged with falsifying his tax returns, followed by other, more serious accusations, including money laundering and conspiracy to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran…

On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced Sheikhzadeh to three months for tax fraud and sanctions violations. The sentence was an unusually public rebuke of an unsuccessful covert operation.

The case culminated with a rare scene in federal court: a defendant being called as a witness at his own sentencing. The 3 1/2-hour hearing provided a strange footnote to the nearly 40-year conflict between the U.S. and Iran, which has included the bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut; the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by the U.S. Navy; Iran’s use of proxy militias in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria; the detention and disappearance of U.S. citizens in Iran; nuclear sabotage; cyber warfare; and, increasingly, the use of federal criminal prosecutions. Most notably, it raised the question of whether Sheikhzadeh’s real crime was not picking a side…

Be seeing you

prison bars


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