Prosecutor says man charged in killing of Iranian activist in US was involved in other death

Juan A. Lozano / The Associated Press
May 29, 2014 12:35 PM

HOUSTON - A Jordanian-born man facing a murder charge in the 2012 shooting death of an Iranian student and women's rights activist in the U.S. also played a role in his son-in-law's death 11 months later, a federal prosecutor alleged Thursday.

During a detention hearing on federal fraud charges, a federal agent testified that Ali Irsan's daughter was afraid of her father after she left home and married Coty Beavers. Irsan, who did not approve of the marriage, violated a restraining order in trying to find his daughter and Beavers, authorities said.

"He tracked down Coty Beavers and killed him," said prosecutor Jim McAlister.

Irsan, 57, has been charged in Houston with the murder of 30-year-old Gelareh Bagherzadeh. She was gunned down near her parents' home in January 2012.

Mark Diaz, Irsan's attorney, declined to comment on the murder charge or on the allegations related to Beavers' death. Irsan has not been charged in the November 2012 shooting death of Beavers, 28. Harris County District Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff McShan said Beavers' death is still being investigated.

Irsan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is in federal custody on fraud charges for his alleged involvement in a welfare and Social Security benefits scheme. His wife, Shmou Ali Alrawabdeh, 37, and daughter, Nadia Alia, 30, have also been charged.

Gary Dickens, a special agent with the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General, testified Thursday that Bagherzadeh had been close friends with Nesreen Irsan, who was married to Beavers.

Dickens said Nesreen Irsan, who is in her 20s, left home in July 2011 and married Beavers. A month after leaving home, she got a protective order against her father.

Ali Irsan and Alrawabdeh, who is Nesreen Irsan's stepmother, were seen in Beavers and Nesreen Irsan's neighbourhood, passing out flyers that offered up to $100 for information on the couple.

Cory Beavers, Coty's identical twin, has told the Houston Chronicle he believed Ali Irsan thought Bagherzadeh's influence had made Nesreen Irsan leave her parents' home.

Dickens testified that on the night of Bagherzadeh's killing, a witness saw a silver vehicle leave the scene of the murder. Then, 44 minutes later, Irsan and his wife were stopped for speeding. The couple was in a silver vehicle, Dickens said.

Authorities found Bagherzadeh's name and phone number on Alrawabdeh's phone. Alrawabdeh's attorney, Marina Douenat, said it was not unusual for someone to have the name and phone number of a friend of her stepdaughter.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson ordered Ali Irsan be held without bond pending his federal trial.

McShan said Ali Irsan will first be tried on the murder charge. He is expected to be transferred into state custody within the next two weeks.

Ali Irsan was not charged in the 1999 death of another son-in-law, Amjad H. Alidam. Dickens said Irsan claimed he shot him in self-defence.

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