Iranian American engineer pleads guilty to transporting U.S. nuclear plant's training software to Iran

2008-06-25 22:56:52 GMT       2008-06-26 06:56:52 (Beijing Time)       xinhuanet

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Xinhua) -- An Iranian American engineer who worked at a U.S. nuclear plant in Arizona pleaded guilty to transporting the plant's training software, among other stolen property, to Iran, said a local newspaper report on Wednesday.

According to the Arizona Republic report, the 50-year-old engineer, identified Mohammed Reza Alavi, has also agreed not appeal his conviction on a charge of illegally accessing to a computer. As part of a plea deal, federal prosecutors dropped the charge of violating a U.S. trade embargo against him.

A federal jury in Phoenix convicted him on the computer charge last month but did not rule whether he deliberately violated the U.S. trade embargo and stole the computer software, the report said.

Being convicted on both charges, intentionally stealing and transporting software, could make Alavi face a maximum of 15 years in prison. The sentencing hearing was scheduled on Sept. 29, it added.

Alavi, who has worked for Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, about 80 kilometers west of Phoenix, for 17 years, was discovered taking a laptop to Iran containing the plant's training software when he quit in 2006, and arrested in 2007 when he and his wife returned to the United States for their son's birthday.

Although the material in the software could not constitute threat to the U.S. security, U.S. prosecutors charged that Alavi knowingly broke the U.S. federal law when taking the computer to Iran.

The Alavi case received much domestic and international attention partly due to the Iran's controversial nuclear program that was criticized by the U.S. and other Western countries as carrying purpose to develop nuclear weapons.

However, Iran insists on its rights to develop nuclear technology for civilian purposes.

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