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US opposes release of contractor accused of trying to ship US military jet documents to Iran

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - A former defence contractor engineer charged with trying to ship sensitive military documents to Iran last year had already provided people in the country with information about a U.S. Air Force fighter jet program, federal prosecutors say.

Prosecutors made the assertion in response to a request by Mozaffar Khazaee to be released from prison while he awaits trial. Prosecutors objected, saying he's a flight risk and a danger to the United States.

Khazaee's attorney said he has no criminal record, is not a flight risk and did not believe any materials he took to Iran involved sensitive information.

A detention hearing was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Khazaee pleaded not guilty in February to charges of transporting property stolen from companies where he'd worked, including jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney.

Khazee, 59, tried to ship to Iran stolen proprietary information about the Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and military jet engines, prosecutors said. Customs inspectors found sensitive technical manuals and other documents in a November shipment to Iran that Khazawee described as household goods, prosecutors said.

Khazaee, who remains detained, was arrested in January in New Jersey at Newark Liberty International Airport en route to Tehran.

In the court papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors say a review of Khazaee's emails indicates that as of 2009 he already had provided people in Iran with documents related to the Joint Strike Fighter program. In one email to a university in 2008, Khazaee wrote that the documents he posted "are very controlled ... and I am taking big risk," prosecutors wrote.

"The investigation determined that over the past decade or so, while employed as an engineer at certain defence contractors, Khazaee surreptitiously stole from his employers tens of thousands of pages of extremely sensitive military technology, which he attempted to send — and in some instances successfully sent — to Iran," prosecutors wrote.

Khazaee's attorney said his client was travelling to Iran to visit his ill mother.

"Khazaee believed any materials did not include sensitive information, as it was often very small pieces of information about an almost imperceptibly minor part of a project or contained technology that has since become obsolete," his attorney, Hubert Santos, wrote.

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