A FORMER high-ranking Iranian diplomat has won a High Court battle in his attempt to avoid extradition to the US.

Nosratollah Tajik, 59, a former Durham University academic, was the target of an American sting operation in London six years ago and is wanted for conspiring to export US defence night-vision weapons sights to Iran without a licence.

The ex-Iranian ambassador to Jordan turned engineering scholar, who now lives in Coxhoe, County Durham, was arrested in 2006 after agents from the US Department of Homeland Security pretended to be co-conspirators.

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There have been long and controversial delays in the extradition process amid fears that sending Tajik to America for trial could cause further diplomatic problems between the UK and Iran and create a "real threat" to staff at the British embassy in Tehran.

Today Lord Justice Moses, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney, ruled that Tajik "has escaped extradition" because of a failure to "show reasonable cause" for the delays.

Tajik will now be set free unless the Home Secretary and US government attempt to take the case to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.