Three Iranian organized crime members were arrested over a plot to assassinate Masih Alinejad, an American citizen. Alinejad is a journalist and activist who regularly writes about Iran’s human rights abuses. We wrote about the plot to assassinate her in 2022. AG Garland spoke to reporters about the arrests on Jan 27.
The charges in this Indictment arise out of an ongoing investigation into the Government of Iran’ s efforts to assassinate, on U. S. soil, a journalist, author, and human rights activist who is a U. S. citizen of Iranian origin residing in Brooklyn, New York (the “Victim”). The Victim has publicized the Government of Iran’ s human rights abuses; discriminatory treatment of women; suppression of democratic participation and expression;
and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and execution to target its political opponents; and has sought to mobilize public opinion in Iran and around the world to bring about changes to the regime’s laws and practices, including in connection with the continuing protests against the regime across Iran. (Background of the indictment)
Rafat Amirov, 43, of Iran; Polad Omarov, 38, of the Czech Republic and Slovenia; and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, of Yonkers, New York, were all arrested regarding the plot. Omarov is being extradited from the Czech Republic, though the other two are in US custody. All are Iranian organized crime members of a group referred to as “The Organization” in the Justice Department indictment.
In 2022, the Organization was “tasked” with the assassination of Alinejad, according to the US Attorney’s office.
As recently as 2020 and 2021, Iranian intelligence officials and assets plotted to kidnap the Victim from within the United States for rendition to Iran in an effort to silence the Victim’s criticism of the regime. That plot was disrupted and exposed by the FBI and led to the filing of federal kidnapping conspiracy and other charges in the Southern District of New York against several participants in the plot in United States v. Farahani, et al., 21 Cr. 430 (RA) (S.D.N.Y.).
About one year after the Farahani charges were filed, the Organization was tasked with carrying out the Victim’s assassination on U.S. soil. Beginning in approximately mid-July 2022, AMIROV sent targeting information – which AMIROV had received from other individuals in Iran – about the Victim and the Victim’s residence to OMAROV. OMAROV, in turn, communicated the targeting information to MEHDIYEV in order to begin conducting surveillance of the Victim and reconnaissance of the Victim’s residence and surrounding neighborhood. MEHDIYEV sent photographs and videos of the Victim’s residence to OMAROV for further sharing with AMIROV and the plot’s orchestrators in Iran.
After MEHDIYEV’s initial surveillance of the Victim’s residence, AMIROV and OMAROV arranged for the delivery of a $30,000 cash payment to MEHDIYEV in New York City in furtherance of the plot. MEHDIYEV used a portion of this cash payment to buy an AK-47-style assault rifle, along with two magazines for ammunition and at least 66 rounds. MEHDIYEV bragged in electronic communications that he had procured for himself a “war machine.” Justice Department
With repeated visitations to Alinejad’s residence, the would-be assassins hoped to find an opportunity that never came. The three men were charged with (i) murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; (ii) conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and (iii) conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. MEHDIYEV is also charged with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. (DOJ)
Masih Alinejad has been a constant target of the Iranian regime, as she takes on their vicious attacks on not just women, but anyone who protests or criticizes their actions.
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