Los Angeles (AP) - A purported Iranian government agent who pleaded guilty to trying to hire a hitman to kill a broadcaster critical of the Iranian regime is a fugitive from justice after missing a
Mohammad Reza Sadeghnia, 43, was granted permission to travel to his native
Sadeghnia's name appears among the trove of
Sadeghnia, who lived for years in
Sadeghnia spent a year in jail before being placed on probation in July. He later was given permission to leave the country and go to
Sadeghnia's lawyer, Michael Zimbert, said he hasn't heard directly from his client but received an e-mail from Sadeghnia's brother. The e-mail said Sadeghnia could not return from
Zimbert did not specify what stopped Sadeghnia from coming back but played down any potential danger posed by his client. He said the charge was the result of outlandish drunken statements and that he encouraged Sadeghnia to plead guilty because he felt a jury would be biased against an Iranian.
"In his drunken state of mind he may have said something, but he never had the ability to assassinate anyone," Zimbert said.
He noted the FBI interviewed his client but federal authorities have not brought charges.
The website annarbor.com has reported the FBI began investigating Sadeghnia following his arrest and executed two search warrants in
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Sharmahd said Sadeghnia repeatedly asked to meet him.
"Usually, someone who wants to help, with a donation or a suggestion, just does it and lets it go. They might email or call to follow up, but that's it. His repeated insistence to see me in person was suspect," said Sharmahd, who hosts a popular three-hour radio show.
Sharmahd said because he's long advocated for regime change in
The diplomatic cable says following Sadeghnia's arrest the FBI shared information about him with British authorities. Sadeghnia "apparently admitted his surveillance" of Sharmahd and Nourizadeh and claimed he was an Iranian agent, according to the cable, which spells Sadeghnia as "Sadeqinia," perhaps because "q" and "gh" sound the same when translated to Farsi.
Acting on the FBI's information, British authorities told Nourizadeh that Sadeghnia was "working for the Iranian intelligence services and gathering information on Nourizadeh's habits."
Nourizadeh, "obviously shaken by this news," told authorities Sadeghnia had contacted him several months before, claiming to be a "big fan," according to the cable. Nourizadeh met with Sadeghia several times in
Then came a tip from "a well-placed friend" who told Nourizadeh that Sadeghnia's photos had landed on the desk of
Associated Press writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.