Manssor Arbabsiar, the naturalized U.S. citizen accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court on Monday, Reuters reports.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials announced charges against Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, a member of Iran's Qods Force, which is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Both men were charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, along with a number of other charges, related to an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador. Arbabsiar, 56, holds both Iranian and U.S. passports, and was arrested in New York in late September. Shakuri remains at large.
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After the charges were brought, President Barack Obama said Arbabsiar "had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government." But Iranian officials have pushed back on the allegations. According to Reuters, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the U.S. fabricated the plot to cause a rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The New York Post reports that Arbabsiar's plea hearing lasted just five minutes, and that the defendant had grown out his beard since his first appearance in court earlier this month. According to the Post, at least one Saudi diplomat was at the hearing, but declined to comment.
Arbabsiar's next court appearance will come December 21.