NEW YORK – A judge on Tuesday scheduled an October trial for a man charged with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, saying it would be unfair to everyone involved to let the case drag out.
"I want to get this case on track," an impatient U.S. District Judge John Keenan told lawyers in Manhattan as he set the Oct. 22 trial date for Manssor Arbabsiar over the objections of defense attorney Sabrina Shroff. Shroff told the judge that she will submit a letter to ask him to move the date to November.
"The case itself is complex. The indictment is complex," she told the judge.
"I don't want this thing dragging on," Keenan said. "It's not fair to the defendant, and it's not fair to the government, and it's not fair to the witnesses."
Arbabsiar, 56, was arrested Sept. 29 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in what authorities said was a $1.5 million plot to kill the ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, in a bombing at his favorite restaurant. Arbabsiar, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Texas for decades and holds an Iranian passport, faces charges that carry a potential life sentence. He has been held without bail.
President Barack Obama's administration has accused agents of the Iranian government of playing a role in the plot. The press attache at Iran's mission to the United Nations has called the accusation "baseless."
A prosecutor said 75 pages of notes of interviews conducted with Arbabsiar for 10 days after his arrest have been turned over to defense lawyers in the case while about 5 percent of the interviews remain classified. The government has said he confessed to the plot.
Gholam Shakuri was also charged in court papers. Authorities said he was one of Iran's Quds Force special foreign actions unit members and is at large in Iran.
According to court papers, Arbabsiar in May 2011 approached someone he believed to be a member of a vicious Mexican narco-terror group, Los Zetas, for help with an attack on a Saudi embassy. The man he approached was an informant for U.S. drug agents, authorities said.
Arbabsiar has pleaded not guilty. Shroff declined to speak about the case outside court.