3 men arrested after attempting to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist and activist who is critical of the country's human rights abuses, feds say
Three men were indicted on charges of money laundering and murder-for-hire, the DOJ said.
The target, Masih Alinejad, told The Associated Press the FBI read her the messages the men exchanged.
The indictment did not say if the Iranian regime was directly involved in the murder order.
The Justice Department on Friday announced charges against three men authorities believe are part of an Eastern European criminal organization who planned to murder an Iranian author and activist living in exile in New York City.
Rafat Amirov, 43, of Iran; Polad Omarov, 38, of the Czech Republic and Slovenia; and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, of Yonkers, New York; were charged with money laundering and murder-for-hire, the DOJ said in a statement.
While the DOJ did not reveal the identity of the activist, Masih Alinejad confirmed on Twitter that she was the target.
—Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 27, 2023
"Yeah this the face of a person who was the target of a assassination plot," Alinejad said. "Let me make it clear, I'm not scared for my life because I knew that killing, assassinating, hanging, torturing, raping, is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic."
Alinejad told The Associated Press that the FBI read her the messages the men exchanged,
"I'm not scared," Alinejad told the AP. "I want to tell you that the Iranian regime thinks by trying to kill me, they will silence me, or silence other women. But they only strengthen me, make me more powerful to fight for democracy and give voice to brave women who are facing guns and bullets in the streets to get rid of the Islamic Republic."
While the man behind the plot is in Iran, the DOJ indictment did not say whether the Iranian government was behind the plot.
"The Victim in this case was targeted for exercising the rights to which every American citizen is entitled. The Victim publicized the Iranian Government's human rights abuses; discriminatory treatment of women; suppression of democratic participation and expression; and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and execution," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
According to the DOJ, the criminal organization was tasked with murdering Alinejad, who has previously been the target of "plots by the Government of Iran to intimidate, harass and kidnap" her. The attempted murder-for-hire plan had been active since at least July 2022.
The attempt was part of continuing plots and threats against the Brooklyn-based journalist and author. In July 2021, the DOJ charged four Iranian intelligence officials in an attempted kidnapping of Alinejad.
"Today's indictment exposes a dangerous menace to national security — a double threat posed by a vicious transnational crime group operating from what it thought was the safe haven of a rogue nation: Iran," US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement. "As national security and criminal threats continue to blend, the Department of Justice will use all its tools to zealously protect freedom and hold accountable all those who would use violence to undermine it."
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