Iran has suffered an embarrassing security setback after a cameraman who came to New York as part of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's official United Nations entourage defected and applied for asylum.
Hassan Gol Khanban is thought to have planned his defection in advance of his trip to the United States, taking steps to have his family flee Iran in the hope that they too can gain asylum, his lawyer, Paul O'Dwyer, said.
Mr Khanban, who is believed to have worked for the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB for several years, had accompanied Mr Ahmadinejad to New York to attend last week's session of the UN General Assembly.
Mr O'Dwyer said that his client's wife and two children had left Iran while he was in New York and that efforts were being made to bring them to the United States.
He revealed that Mr Khanban's application for asylum had already been submitted to the department of Homeland Security and that applications would be made on behalf of his wife and children at a later date.
"I cannot reveal how long we had been in communication beforehand," he said. "He was due to leave the US last Thursday. He was part of the UN delegation. They left and he just did not go to the airport. There are obvious security concerns about revealing his location."
Having accompanied Mr Ahmadinejad to New York once before, Mr Khanban was clearly trusted by the regime.
But it is unclear whether he has sensitive information that he could offer the US authorities in exchange for asylum.
Although he was one of a number of cameramen and photographers in the Iranian delegation, opposition websites said he had worked on a number of television programmes about military and defence issues.
According to the Jaras website, Mr Khanban was able to slip out of the Warwick Hotel an hour before the Iranian delegation was due to leave for the airport under the pretext of doing some last-minute shopping for his son. He never returned.
The website suggested that, as a cameraman, Mr Khanban was under less official scrutiny than reporters accompanying the president.
The defection represented a blow to Mr Ahmadinejad, whose chief press advisor was taken to Tehran's notorious Evin prison to begin a six-month sentence just as the president started to address the General Assembly.
Ali Akbar Javenfekr's detention was seen as the latest incident in a feud between Mr Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that has left the president severely weakened.
Mr O'Dwyer said that his client had been in touch with the American government to allay any fears they may have about his defection.
"If you have a diplomatic delegation and someone does not leave, particularly from a state perceived to have such an antagonistic relationship with the US as Iran does, the government may be concerned about those people who have not left," he said. "We got in touch to allay whatever concerns they have about him and to reassure them he is not a person to be concerned about."