Published February 20, 2013
BERLIN – Two Iranian men have been charged with allegedly smuggling dozens of German-made aircraft motors to Iran to be used in its Ababil III surveillance and attack drone, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Germany prohibits the export of goods to Iran that could be used for military purposes, abiding by international sanctions.
Iman J. L., a 30-year-old German-Iranian dual national, and Iranian Davood A., 54, have both been charged with violating German export laws, said prosecutors' spokesman Marcus Koehler. The men, whose last names were not given in accordance with German privacy laws, face two to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The Ababil is believed to have a maximum range of about 145 kilometers (90 miles) and can fly up to 4,300 meters (14,000 feet) high. It is primarily designed for surveillance and intelligence-gathering, although German prosecutors said it can also be used as an attack drone.
Iran has used Ababil-type drone for years. The U.S. military said in 2009 that American fighter jets shot down an Ababil III over Iraq.
J.L. is accused of delivering 61 motors in several shipments between October 2008 and October 2009 to Iran through his own import-export business. He is alleged to have used false customs declarations to hide what the cargo was and where it was going. The other man, A., is accused of reselling in Iran at least some of the motors to an unidentified buyer there.
Koehler would not identify the firm that produced the motors, nor say whether they were specifically designed for use in drones. He said only that "because of their design, the motors were suitable for the propulsion the Ababil III system drone, which are used by the Iranian military."
The charges have been filed with the Frankfurt state court, suggesting that the alleged crime took place in that area. The court has not yet decided whether to accept the charges, filed on Dec. 6, 2012, and proceed to trial, Koehler said.
He would not say where the men currently are, but said neither was taken into custody because they were not seen as a flight risk.