First man tried in Canada under United Nations Act claims he confessed under duress
The first man in Canada on trial under the United Nations Act for trying to supply parts for Iran’s nuclear program says two Mounties made him talk by threatening him with the arrest of his wife and loss of his baby. Mahmoud Yadegari, 36, took the stand in his defence Thursday to say he ignored legal advice and discussed his case with two RCMP officers visiting him in a Newmarket holding cell on April 16, 2009, the day of his arrest.
“I felt that I had no other choice,” Yadegari told his lawyer, Frank Addario, in Old City Hall provincial court. “They said if I don’t speak to them they will charge my wife . . . and they will give my son to the care of children’s aid.” Both officers adamantly denied, in earlier testimony, that they used any threats or inducements. The Iranian-born businessman faces 10 counts under the Criminal Code, Customs Act, the Export and Import Permits Act and, for the first time in Canada, anti-proliferation provisions in the United Nations Act, as well as the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
The Toronto man is accused of using his one-man company, N&N Express Inc., to try to export to Iran via Dubai two of 10 pressure transducers he legally purchased for $1,109 each from Setra Systems Inc. of Massachusetts. The instruments, which convert pressure measurements into electrical signals, can be used in the enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons. The trial is now focused on whether Justice Cathy Mocha will admit Yadegari’s allegedly self-incriminating police statements into evidence.
Yadegari testified that Const. Peter Merrifield and then-Cpl. Kelly Helowka addressed him in a loud and abrupt manner in his cramped cell. He was stressed, nauseous and had a splitting headache at the time, he said. “They said if I don’t speak to them they will make more charges against me that would allow them to keep me in prison for 10 years,” Yadegari testified through a Farsi interpreter. “I was shocked. I was disoriented.”
But Merrifield, in earlier testimony, strenuously denied the allegations, emphasizing that he treated Yadegari with great respect. He said the prisoner made his admissions of his own accord. Merrifield said Yadegari admitted that much of the money to purchase the transducers came from his Iranian business partner, Nima Tabari. Yadegari said Tabari instructed him not to export directly to Iran; instead they used a front company in Dubai, Keft Trading Co., Merrifield testified.
Yadegari told him he was making only a few hundred dollars on the deals, Merrifield said. The officer testified he knew Yadegari was lying because the paperwork showed he virtually tripled the price of the transducers when exporting. “Mr. Yadegari said he did not know they were for nuclear use,” Merrifield testified. Merrifield said he asked Yadegari why he had removed the labels from the transducers before shipping and lowered their price on the waybill. Yadegari responded that, “Mr. Tabari had told him to hide the description and the value,” the officer said.
The trial continues Friday.