Prosecutors: Man Was Told Missiles Were Needed To Protect Heroin Lab

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A U.S. citizen convicted of conspiring to provide material support to the Taliban and acquire anti-aircraft missiles was sentenced in a Manhattan court Wednesday to 25 years in prison.

Alwar Pouryan, who once served as a translator for U.S. forces in Iraq, received the mandatory minimum sentence for the anti-aircraft missile count and was spared a life sentence by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald. The defense had asked for the minimum.

Pouryan, born in Kurdistan, Iran, to parents of Iranian Kurdish descent, and co-defendant Oded Orbach, also a U.S. citizen, were convicted last month after a two-week trial. Orbach is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 1.

The men were told that surface-to-air missiles were needed to protect Taliban heroin laboratories against attacks by U.S. helicopters, prosecutors said. They said Pouryan and Orbach agreed to provide more than $25 million in weapons, ammunition and training and were planning to earn more than $800,000 in commissions.

“Alwar Pouryan was an American who was all too willing to do business with the Taliban – agreeing to provide that narco-terrorist organization with lethal, military-grade weapons that would have put countless innocent lives at risk,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “The sentence handed down today is a just and appropriate penalty for an individual who so callously sold out his country.”

The men were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, last February by Romanian authorities. A two-year investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration caught the men agreeing to provide military-grade weapons, including heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, to an individual they believed represented the Taliban, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Pouryan and Orbach agreed during meetings in Ghana, Ukraine and Romania to arrange the sale of weapons to a confidential source for the Taliban’s use against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.

In court papers, Pouryan’s lawyers wrote that Pouryan sought political asylum in the United States in 1996, after it became too dangerous for Kurds in Iraq. He entered the U.S. in September 1997 but had no family in the country. For a time, he was a linguist for the U.S. Army as a contractor, the court papers said. He eventually was able to own a home and a grocery store.

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