Professor Mojtaba Atarodi
The Iranian semiconductor scientist, who allegedly violated United States' export laws by buying high-tech U.S. lab equipment, has denied all charges against himself.
According to AP, Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi arrived in Los Angeles from Iran planning to consult with his brother's cardiologist about what he described as a serious heart condition. He was promptly arrested and locked up for almost two months.
In an email interview, Atarodi said that he spends most of his time confined to his brother's Los Angeles-area home awaiting trial. A court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Atarodi was released after posting $460,000 bond and has been ordered to wear a tracking device.
Atarodi said he is worried about his wife, five children and extended family.
"My wife struggles with her own heart problems and diabetics and my ill mother is dependent on me for financial support," he said in the email exchange, which was conducted with Kohn serving as intermediary.
The Iranian scientist said he specializes in the design of integrated circuits used for communications, biomedical applications and consumer electronics. "My academic and research activity ... has no association whatever with non-consumer and government uses," he wrote.
Professor John Choma of the University of Southern California, who has known Atarodi since he was a graduate student there in the 1990s, said Atarodi has designed high-performance electronic filters that can be used in a variety of communications devices to screen out unwanted frequencies.
"It's possible (it could be used) for a military application," Choma said. "It could be used in a (missile) guidance system, I suppose. But I'm not aware it is ever been used in that way." Overall, Choma said he would be surprised if Atarodi was engaged in clandestine work.
A 2006 academic paper co-authored by Atarodi lists him as working for the Microelectronic Research and Development Center of Iran, known as MERDCI.
MERDCI was an arm of the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran, which was sanctioned in July 2010 by the European Union for alleged involvement in research and development related to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and the "procurement (of) advanced manufacturing technology in order to support them."
Atarodi said he was "fully disconnected" from MERDCI by 2010, the date the sanctions were adopted.
"As the name shows, MERDCI was involved in the research and development of integrated circuits," he wrote. "It was also involved in projects for the automobile industry (e.g., hands-free mobile system for cars)."
He said he worked only on civilian projects at the center, "but, unfortunately, none of them has been finished."
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