U.S. prosecutors have accused four Iranians of allegedly intelligence agents of conspiring to kidnap a New York journalist who was critical of Tehran, according to a Justice Department indictment.
While the unsealed accusation on Tuesday did not name the purpose of the plot, the Reuters news agency confirmed the person Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad, Who has assisted in the Persian service of the Voice of America (VOA) and reported on human rights issues in Iran.
Asked by Reuters to confirm that Alinejad was the target of the plot, the Justice Department (DoJ) declined to comment.
According to the indictment, the four Iranians hired private investigators with fake appearances to examine the unnamed journalist in Brooklyn, videotaping the victim’s family and home as a plot to get people out of the country.
The four defendants “planned to take the victim to Iran, the fate of the victim would surely not have been known,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss told the New York Southern District.
In a document posted on its website, the DoJ identified the suspects as Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, also known as Vezerat Salimi and Haj Ali, 50; Mahmoud Khazein, 42; Kiya Sadeghi, 35; and Omid Noori, 45, are all Iranians.
According to the indictment, Farahani is an Iranian intelligence official living in Iran. Khazein, Sadeghi and Noori are members of the Iranian intelligence, who also live in Iran and work under the command of Farahani. The alleged kidnapping of the journalist was reportedly planned for at least June 2020.
Assistant Director Alan E Kohler Jr., the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, said the Iranian government had “directed some state agents to carry out the kidnapping”.
“We will use all the tools at our disposal to aggressively investigate foreign activities by agents conspiring to kidnap a U.S. citizen, simply because the Iranian government did not accept the victims’ criticism of the regime.”
A 46-year-old California resident of Niloufar Bahadorifar, also known as Nellie Bahadorifar, allegedly provided financial services to support the land.
This is not the first time Iranian operators have been accused of pursuing Iranian dissidents.
December 2020, Turkey arrested 11 people involved in kidnappings and smuggling into Iran An Iranian dissident wanted to be linked to the deadly 2018 bombing in southwestern Iran.
Habib Chaab, an Iranian Arab separatist leader, was drugged and kidnapped by a network working “on behalf of the Iranian intelligence service” after he was lured by an Iranian intelligence operator to fly to Turkey, according to a senior Turkish official.
The U.S. has also accused Iranian diplomat of killing Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in the Turkish city of Istanbul in November 2019. Two senior Turkish officials told Reuters that the assassination was sparked by two intelligence officials at the Iranian consulate. in the largest city in the country.
When he arrived by phone on Tuesday after the accusation was released, Alinejad, also known as Masoumeh Alinejad, said he was in a state of shock.
He said he had been working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since the agency went to him eight months ago with photographs taken by the plotters.
“They showed me that the Islamic Republic was very close,” he said.
U.S. attorney in Manhattan announces allegations of kidnapping of Iranian intelligence officer and members of Iranian intelligence network https://t.co/26n3II71Zz@FBI @NewYorkFBI pic.twitter.com/mfYYhHffYm
– SDNY United States Attorney (@SDNYnews) July 13, 2021
Alinejad said Iran has drawn out anger over Iranian women protesting against laws that require a headscarf, as well as accounts of Iranians killed in 2019 demonstrations.
Alinejad said FBI agents took her and her husband to safe homes when they investigated the case.
He said he was still cramped while reading the indictment.
“I can’t believe I’m not safe in America either,” he said.
The Quincy Institute identifies Alinejad as a U.S. government contractor aside from the VOA’s Persian Service “anchor, writer, reporter” job.
Alinejad received more than $ 305,000 for work done by VOA Persian between May 2015 and September 10, 2019, according to a think tank based at the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC.
There is also news of the argument when Iran announced it was conducting talks on Tuesday prisoners exchange with the US It aims to secure the release of Iranians detained in U.S. prisons and other countries for violating U.S. sanctions.
“Negotiations for the exchange of prisoners between Iran and America are underway, and we will provide more information if Iranian prisoners are released and the country’s interests are secured and talks are concluded,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.