Six months after a man with a loaded AK-47-style rifle was caught outside the Brooklyn home of a prominent Iranian dissident journalist, federal prosecutors on Friday announced new arrests in what they've called a kidnapping plot by the Iranian government.
The journalist, Masih Alinejad, 45, tweeted a video of the suspect, Khalid Mehdiyev, outside her house in July and spoke to ABCNL Prime.
"The U.S. condemns the apparent attempt to harm leading Iranian activist and U.S. Citizen Masih Alinejad at her home in New York last week," White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said at the time.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced criminal charges against two men, Rafat Amirov and Polad Omirov, for targeting Alinejad because she has publicized Iran's human rights abuses, discriminatory treatment of women, torture, and suppression of democratic participation.
"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," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
Amirov, who lives in Iran, Omirov, who lives in Eastern Europe, and Khalid Mehdiyev, who was previously arrested in Brooklyn, were part of an Eastern European criminal organization with ties to Iran, according to the charging documents. Amirov, the leader, and Omirov arranged for the payment of $30,000 to Mehdiyev, "who then procured an AK-47-style assault rifle for carrying out the murder," according to the criminal complaint.
The Iranians were so intent on silencing Alinejad that its intelligence assets developed potential kidnapping and rendition routes, including travel from Brooklyn, a speedboat from Manhattan, and another boat to Venezuela, according to the complaint.
Amirov and Omirov are charged with money laundering and murder-for-hire. Amirov was arrested in Iran and transported to New York. Omirov was arrested in the Czech Republic. Mehdiyev was previously in custody.
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