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Nigerian court charges Iranian over arms cache

(AFP) ABUJA — A Nigerian court on Thursday charged an Iranian and three Nigerians over an illegal arms shipment including rockets and mortars discovered at the West African country’s main port and sent from Iran.

The Iranian, Azim Aghajani, was identified in court papers as a businessman and “member of IRGC” with an address in Tehran.

IRGC is an abbreviation for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the military and economic force in Iran. Officials could not be reached to comment on the reference.

Iran has said the arms were being shipped by a private company.

The three Nigerians charged over the shipment denied the allegations, while Aghajani was allowed to delay entering a plea because his lawyer was not with him in court. All were ordered held in custody.

“The accused persons should be remanded in (intelligence agency) custody pending the conclusion of the investigation, and the accused persons should be allowed access to their lawyers while in custody,” Magistrate Hafsat Sadiq Soso said.

Court documents alleged Aghajani “conspired to import and did import 13 20-feet containers loaded with assorted calibres of prohibited firearms …” along with one of the Nigerian suspects.

They also alleged he sought to export the containers along with the three Nigerian suspects.

Nigerian agents seized the weapons at the port in Lagos last month. The containers had been loaded at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

The shipper later sought to have the containers reloaded and sent to Gambia, a tiny West African country wedged inside Senegal.

Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, with Iran under four sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programme. The sanctions include a ban on arms sales.

Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia has said a diplomat may have also been linked to the shipment, but authorities could not question him because he had diplomatic immunity that the Iran government had not agreed to waive.

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