WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice has charged three members of an Eastern European criminal group with ties to Iran for attempting to assassinate a prominent American journalist and activist critical of the Iranian regime.
in 25 pages accusation Unsealed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Justice Department said the three men enlisted last year to assassinate an Iranian-American citizen on US soil. The person, who was not identified by the Justice Department and is only described as «the victim,» wrote critically of Iran’s treatment of women, protesters and other issues, according to the indictment.
Shortly after the charges were announced, Masih Alinejad revealed that she was the target of the assassination plot.
«I just found out from 12 FBI agents that the 3 men hired by the Iranian regime to kill me on American soil have been indicted. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard has been conducting these terror operations for four decades. The Islamic Republic is ISIS with oil. #WomanLifeFreedom,» she tweeted.
The assassination attempt came after the FBI and federal officials foiled an earlier attempt by an Iranian group to silence Alinejad on US soil. But the second plot last summer was also unsuccessful.
«Fortunately, their plot failed because we didn’t,» FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a news conference announcing the indictment.
The three defendants who were charged are Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev. Amirov, a citizen of Azerbaijan and Russia who was living in Iran during the plot, was detained in New York on Thursday.. Mehdiyev, also a citizen of Azerbaijan, lived in Yonkers, New York, and was arrested in late July. Omarov, a citizen of Georgia, was arrested in the Czech Republic in early January and the United States will request his extradition to the United States, the Justice Department said.
The indictment alleges that in July 2022, Amirov was tasked by individuals in Iran to attack the victim, saying that he “received information about the victim.” He sent images of the journalist’s Brooklyn, New York, residence to Omarov, which the prosecution said showed the time and battery level in Farsi numbers «consistent with assignments originating from within Iran.»
Omarov then ordered Mehdiyev to carry out the plot against Alinejad and Amirov and Omarov arranged to pay Mehdiyev $30,000 in cash. Mehdiyev then obtained an AK-47-style assault rifle to carry out the killing, prosecutors said.
Prior to the attempted murder, Mehdiyev «surveilled the victim and the victim’s family members; took photographs and videos of the victim’s Brooklyn residence and the surrounding neighborhood; and devised plans to lure the victim out of the victim’s home,» the indictment reads.
However, before he could carry out the plot, Mehdiyev was arrested near Alinejad’s home in July with the assault rifle in his possession.
«At the time of the arrest, Mehdiyev, under the direction of Amirov and Omarov, was imminently preparing to carry out the attack on the victim,» the indictment states.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told a news conference on Friday that US law protects its citizens in the peaceful exercise of their constitutional and civil rights, as the journalist did when questioning Iran’s actions.
«The Department of Justice will not tolerate attempts by an authoritarian regime to undermine those protections and the rule of law on which our democracy is founded,» Garland said. «We will not tolerate attempts by a foreign power to threaten silence or harm the American people. We will stop at nothing to identify, find, and bring to justice those who endanger the safety of the American people.»