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Three charged with Iran-backed plot to assassinate journalist in US | Iran

U.S. prosecutors have charged three members of an Eastern European criminal organization with ties to the Iranian government with conspiring to kill a U.S. citizen journalist and activist, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday.

Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev have been charged with contract killing and money laundering for their involvement in a thwarted plot backed by Tehran, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

“The victim made public [the] Human rights violations by the Iranian government, discriminatory treatment of women, suppression of democratic participation and expression, and arbitrary imprisonment, torture and execution,” Garland said.

“This activity posed such a threat to the Iranian government that the chief judge of Iran’s revolutionary courts warned that anyone who sent a video criticizing the regime to the victim would be sentenced to prison.”

Garland did not name the alleged victim, but Mehtiyev was arrested last year in New York for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, a longtime critic of Iranian head covering laws who promoted videos of women on social media. who violate these laws. media.

Masih Alinejad.
Masih Alinejad. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Alinejad told Reuters that she was invited to the FBI headquarters in Manhattan Friday morning, where a dozen agents told her the details of the alleged conspiracy.

In July, the men planned to take Alinejad out of her house, ask her for flowers from the garden, and then shoot her, authorities said.

Her elaborate garden is well-known around the area: each section is dedicated to the family in Iran from whom she was separated 13 years ago. The attackers were watching the property, she said, and may have noticed that she often shares flowers with her neighbors.

But she spotted the attackers monitoring her home and fled, authorities said. “Imagine if they opened fire,” she said. “How many of my beautiful neighbors would die. My adopted children?

Alinejad said the assassination shows Iran is afraid of Iranian women demanding their rights, which she often promotes on social media. “They are afraid of their own people,” she said. “Like millions of others, I want freedom for my country. I don’t deserve to die for this.”

Mehdiyev pleaded not guilty to one count of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He is being held at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting trial.

Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2021, four Iranians allegedly working in Tehran were charged by US Attorney’s Office with conspiracy to kidnap a journalist and activist from New York. Although the target of the plot was not named, Reuters confirmed that it was Alinejad.

Amirov was arrested on Thursday, and a pretrial hearing will take place later Friday in federal court in Manhattan. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic earlier this month and the US is seeking his extradition.

In 2011, the United States arrested one man who it said was linked to an Iranian plot to assassinate the then Saudi ambassador to Washington at a restaurant he frequented in the capital.

Washington accuses Tehran of supporting terrorism and creating nuclear weapons, Iran denies the accusations.

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