March 25, 2023

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Two men arrested in kidnapping plot targeting Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad living in Brooklyn

Federal prosecutors announced new arrests connected to what they call a kidnapping plot organised by the Iranian government.

The US Justice Department announced on Friday that it was bringing criminal charges against two men — Rafat Amirov and Polad Omirov — for allegedly targeting the Iranian dissident journalist Masih Alinejad for kidnapping.

Ms Alinejad, 45, was sitting in her Brooklyn home in July when she noted a man standing outside with an AK-47 rifle. She recorded a video of the man and shared it to Twitter.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Ms Alinejad recalled her reaction to the multiple attempts on her life, allegedly at the request of Iran.

“I was screaming in my safe house,” she told The Independent. “Of course … I was traumatised. I was like, wow, that can happen to me.”

She explained how the assassination attempts turned her life “upside down.”

“Of course, the kidnapping plot and then the assassination plot just turned my life upside down,” she said. “Every day I put a mask on my face to be strong, powerful, don’t show my frustration, my fear — but it is scary. Just imagine if the guy with an AK-47 gun in front of my house had opened fire, who knows how many of my neighbors would’ve been killed? Who knows, my stepchildren?”

The Justice Department believes she was targeted because of her public criticism of Iran’s human rights abuses, discrimination toward women, and its authoritarian government.

“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 of the initial incident.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said that Friday’s indictments exposed a “dangerous menace to national security” in the form of a “transnational crime group” operating out of Iran.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the trio of men who have been arrested thus far — which includes the “hitman” send to Brooklyn with the rifle, who was arrested previously — were part of an assassination plot against the reporter.

“Today’s announcement by the Attorney General should serve as a warning about the long reach of the U.S. Government in defense of Americans everywhere. It demonstrates our steadfast resolve to impose consequences, consistent with our laws, on those involved in plotting against our citizens and our interests,” he said.

Iran Protests A Dissident Speaks

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Iran Protests A Dissident Speaks

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“Let there be no mistake: The United States will not allow Iran or other authoritarian regimes to export efforts to stifle peaceful dissent through threats and intimidation against those living lawfully in our country. And we will hold those involved in such activities accountable under the law, just as we are doing today.”

According to the Justice Department, all three men were involved in an Eastern European criminal organisation with ties to Iran.

Mr Amirov, reportedly the leader of the operation, and Mr Omirov allegedly arranged to pay $30,000 to Khalid Mehdiyev, the alleged would-be assassin who stalked outside Ms Alinejad’s home in New York.

The Iranian government’s intelligence services had reportedly laid out possible routes for kidnapping and extracting the reporter from New York to Venezuela, according to the DoJ’s charging documents.

Mr Amirov and Mr Omirov are both being charged with money laundering and murder-for-hire.

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