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Iranian-American prisoner pardoned by Obama plans to stay in U.S.

January 18, 2016 at 6:35 PM EST
Seven Iranians who have been held in the U.S. are being released by the Justice Department in a prisoner exchange for Americans imprisoned in Iran. Jeffrey Brown talks to Joel Androphy, attorney for Bahram Mechanic, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who was accused of selling electronics that aided Iran’s nuclear program.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And now we get the perspective from one of the Iranian-Americans released by the United States as part of this deal.

For that, I am joined by attorney Joel Androphy, the attorney for Bahram Mechanic, a dual U.S.-Iranian national who co-owns companies in Houston and in Iran. Mechanic was accused of selling millions of dollars of electronics to Iran that aided the country’s nuclear program. He was granted a full pardon and released from prison yesterday.

Attorney Androphy is in Houston.

Thank you so much for joining us.

It has been reported that you were contacted even months ago by an Iranian official to ask about the possibility of this kind of deal for your client. Is that correct? And what was said?

JOEL ANDROPHY, Bahram Mechanic’s Attorney: Yes.

For the last four or five months, my associate and I have been trying to get a visa to go to Iran and investigate our case. And we were told to deal with the Iranian consul in Washington, D.C., and we have been pursuing that with them. And about two months ago, the head of legal affairs contacted Rachael Thompson and myself and told us that there was a possibility, only at that time a possibility, that we were involved in a prisoner exchange that had been advertised throughout the press.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, so that means Mr. Mechanic knew that this deal was in the works. What was his reaction over the weekend?

JOEL ANDROPHY: Well, this was a couple of months ago that this happened. Things transpired after that that gave us more convincing thought that we were part of the deal.

Two months ago, it was a possibility. It was like a lottery ticket. About 10 days ago, the same council people, the head of legal affairs came down and told us that it was going to become more of a reality. He didn’t know the timing of it. He thought it could be within the next 60 days, but he gave us pretty good assurances that we were on the list and that we would be exchanged for Americans held in Iran.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mr. Mechanic has…

JOEL ANDROPHY: It wasn’t until…

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

JOEL ANDROPHY: It wasn’t until last Wednesday that we got confirmation that it was going to happen right away.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Houston got confirmation from the attorney general and the president of the United States. And they were told to contact us to communicate to our client the fact that the president was giving him a pardon.

JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you. Mr. Mechanic has maintained his innocence all along. Is his claim that none of the technology he sold to Iran was used for military purposes, or that it didn’t defy any of the sanctions? What exactly?

JOEL ANDROPHY: Well, first of all, we didn’t sell any — his company has never sold anything to Iran.

His company is on the black list. His company is not allowed to do business in Iran with the Iranian government or the Iranian police. So any allegations made like that were basically false. And allegations were made to what’s called the International FISA Court.

There’s a court called the FISA Court. It’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. And they go make application to that court to get a warrant to do surveillance on somebody. And in order to get that warrant, they lied. They lied to the secret judge who gave them a secret warrant to get secret information. And it was all built on lies, because he doesn’t do business with the Iranian government.

JEFFREY BROWN: Is he planning — what are his plans now? Will he stay in the United States? Will he continue to run the Iranian company?

JOEL ANDROPHY: Well, he plans to stay in the United States and run his business here.

He has a very successful business here that sells similar products to his Iranian company. The business here sells to businesses in the United States. The Iranian company sells to consumers in Iran. It has a storefront. And they’re two different businesses. But they market similar products.

And they’re all legal products. And they have nothing to do with national security or anything like that. These are surge protectors that everybody has on their computers that you could buy at Wal-Mart, you could buy at any store. You can go online and buy these type of apparatus.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Joel Androphy, attorney for Bahram Mechanic, thank you so much.

JOEL ANDROPHY: Thank you.

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