Iranian journalist and writer Masih Alinejad listens during an event at European Parliament headquarters in Brussels in 2016.
Four Iranian nationals have been charged in an alleged plot to kidnap a US journalist and human rights activist from New York, court documents show.
According to an indictment unsealed in a New York federal court Tuesday, Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, aka Vezerat Salimi and Haj Ali, 50; Mahmoud Khazein, 42; Kiya Sadeghi, 35; and Omid Noori, 45, all of Iran, conspired to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist critical of the Iranian regime.
The four were charged with conspiracies related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering, according to the indictment.
“As alleged, four of the defendants monitored and planned to kidnap a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime’s autocracy, and to forcibly take their intended victim to Iran, where the victim’s fate would have been uncertain at best,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said in a news release Tuesday.
Masih Alinejad said she is the journalist targeted in the plot. The US Attorney’s Office declined comment on this case.
Before the alleged kidnapping plot, the indictment said, the government of Iran tried to lure Alinejad, referred to as Victim-1 in the indictment, by having her relatives who lived in Iran invite her to travel to a third country, with the apparent purpose of having her “detained and transported to Iran for imprisonment.”
Her relatives did not accept the offer, prosecutors said in their statement.
According to the indictment Farahani, an Iranian intelligence officer who resides in Iran, and his network, allegedly hired private investigators, “to surveil, photograph and video record Victim-1 and Victim-1’s household members in Brooklyn.”
Farahani’s network procured days’ worth of video and photographs and installed a live high-definition video feed of the victim’s home.
According to officials, Farahani’s network has targeted other victims in other countries such as Canada, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.
“This is not some far-fetched movie plot. We allege a group, backed by the Iranian government, conspired to kidnap a U.S. based journalist here on our soil and forcibly return her to Iran. Not on our watch,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said. “When we find you, you will be brought here and held accountable under U.S. law.”