Israel holds man suspected by U.S. of breaking Iran arms embargo

JERUSALEM Mon May 12, 2014 2:30pm EDT

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Monday detained a citizen suspected by the United States of illegally selling military hardware to Iran and a Jerusalem judge has initially ordered him held for two days, according to court papers.

Eli Cohen, 65, was held at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv before boarding a flight for London. A state prosecutor told Jerusalem Magistrates Court that the United States had issued an arrest warrant for him and would soon deliver an extradition request.

U.S. authorities have charged Cohen on a number of counts and he is alleged to have illegally sold military spare parts to Iran between 2002-2004 and in 2012 and 2013. The Jerusalem court will rule on Wednesday whether to extend Cohen's remand.

Israel and Western powers suspect Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability and have for decades imposed an embargo on arms sales to the Islamic Republic. Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.

Cohen's attorneys, Boaz Ben Zur and Walid Kabub, said the charges against their client were baseless.

"We are certain that when the issues are examined in detail by the courts, it will be decided that there was no impediment in the actions of Mr. Eli Cohen and that there is no basis for his detention or his extradition," they said in a statement.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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