Justice Department Announces Additional Arrests In Iranian Writer’s Murder Plot

The Justice Department announced on Friday that it has indicted three men in connection with an Iranian assassination plan against Masih Alinejad, a Brooklyn-based American human rights activist who has spoken out against the country’s oppression of women.

An indictment released in Manhattan charged the men, Rafat Amirov of Iran, Polad Omarov of the Czech Republic, and Khalid Mehdiyev of Azerbaijan with murder-for-hire and conspiracy offences involving money-laundering. According to the indictment, the three men are members of the Thieves-in-Law criminal organisation from Eastern Europe, which has connections to Iran and was charged with killing Ms. Alinejad last year.

After being discovered in July outside Ms. Alinejad’s home with a loaded assault rifle in the AK-47 design, Mr. Mehdiyev, 24, was taken into custody. According to the accusation, Mr. Mehdiyev “was preparing imminently to execute the attack” under the instructions of the two other persons.

According to the indictment, Mr. Omarov texted Mr. Amirov on July 27 and said, “This problem is going to be over today, brother.” I requested that they make me a birthday present.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the appointment of two special counsels looking into how former Presidents Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden handled classified documents, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has attempted to emphasise the external threats posed by increasingly aggressive foreign actors, particularly Iran and China.

According to Lisa O. Monaco, deputy attorney general, “rogue governments and criminal organisations make common cause and share capabilities, mixing of national security and criminal concerns is on the rise in the United States.”

Too frequently, she claimed, “they look for safety in nations they think would protect and strengthen them, in this case, Iran.”

The Southern District of New York’s US attorney, Damian Williams, stated: “Let me be clear: In the United States, free expression is a hallmark of our Constitution. You are marked for death in Iran. We shall defend the rights of our citizens to free speech.

Journalist Ms. Alinejad, who claims to have been expelled from Iran more than ten years ago, has been scathing in her criticism of the country’s leadership.

She said in a statement to The New York Times that the F.B.I. informed her of the accusations against the three individuals on Friday.

It was frightening, but Ms. Alinejad claimed, “I’m not worried for my life.” “My heroes are the courageous Iranian women who are leading the ‘woman, life, freedom’ progressive movement to overthrow this terrorist government.”

The Southern District of New York and the FBI announced they had thwarted a scheme to abduct Ms. Alinejad and forcibly deliver her to Iran, where she would likely be executed, 18 months prior to the introduction of the accusations. An intelligence official and other individuals referred to as intelligence assets were among the four Iranians charged in the kidnapping plot. According to the authorities, all four are still at large.

Since his arrest, Mr. Mehdiyev—the guy who police claim was discovered outside Ms. Alinejad’s residence carrying an assault rifle—has been imprisoned.

The United States will seek the extradition of Mr. Omarov, 38, who was detained on January 4 in the Czech Republic, according to prosecutors. According to a senior law enforcement official, Mr. Amirov, 43, was apprehended abroad in the previous week and was charged on Friday in Manhattan.

Mr. Amirov stood with his chest pushed out, his jaw shoved forward, and his big arms swinging as he entered the courtroom. He sat bouncing his knee throughout a brief arraignment, saying through an interpreter that he understood the accusations made against him. He entered a not guilty plea and was put in custody.

The conspiracy, according to Mr. Garland, was Tehran’s long-term attempt to silence Ms. Alinejad, who has written in The New York Times about the reasons she was compelled to leave her country in 2009.

It eventually led to the revocation of her press card. “As a journalist in Iran, I frequently got into difficulties exposing the regime’s incompetence and corruption,” she wrote.

Although it does not explicitly state it, the indictment makes a connection between the assassination plan and Iranian leaders. A request for response was not immediately responded to by the Iranian envoy to the UN.

The indictment claims that the defendants started making plans to kill Ms. Alinejad in July of last year when Mr. Amirov, the defendant based in Iran, obtained “targeting” data, including pictures of Ms. Alinejad’s home from an online mapping service, her address, and two pictures of her, from other unnamed individuals in Iran.

He forwarded the details to Mr. Omarov, a Georgian national living in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Mehdiyev travelled to Brooklyn and gave Mr. Amirov and Mr. Omarov photos and a video he had recorded of Ms. Alinejad’s home.

The indictment claims that they later planned to give Mr. Mehdiyev $30,000 in cash so he could purchase an assault rifle and commit the murder.

Mr. Mehdiyev took a picture of the rubber-banded cash and forwarded it to Mr. Omarov.

Not all of the money was used for the alleged conspiracy, according to the indictment, which claims Mr. Mehdiyev transferred $10,000 to a “romantic partner in Eastern Europe.”

He acquired the assault rifle with a destroyed serial number on July 19.

The next day, he allegedly texted a housemate, saying, “You’d lose your mind if you saw that.”

Mr. Mehdiyev often visited Brooklyn during the course of the following week to keep an eye on Ms. Alinejad, her family, and her home.

Mr. Omarov messaged Mr. Mehdiyev on July 24 and inquired as to his whereabouts in one of the exchanges mentioned in the indictment.

Mr. Mehdiyev answered, “At the crime site.

“OK. You’re a man, man! Omarov responded.

“We blocked it from all sides, it will be a show once she goes out of the home,” Mr. Mehdiyev replied in his reply letter.

On July 26, Mr. Mehdiyev and Mr. Omarov conversed via text message about several approaches to entice Ms. Alinejad to her front door, such as offering her flowers from her garden. However, the indictment states that she did not approach the door.

The indictment claims that on July 28, Mr. Mehdiyev visited Ms. Alinejad’s home once more and transmitted Mr. Omarov a video he had shot from the inside of his vehicle. We are ready, it said, as Mr. Mehdiyev displayed the firearm in a luggage.

Later that day, Ms. Alinejad left the area after noticing unusual activity outside her home, and Mr. Mehdiyev followed about 15 minutes later, according to the indictment. After stopping him for a traffic infraction, New York City Police officers discovered the gun, two ammo magazines, around 66 rounds of ammunition, a black ski mask, and about $1,100 in cash inside his car.

The indictment claims that Mr. Mehdiyev procured an illegal cellphone and used it to contact Mr. Omarov and others after being ordered to be kept at a federal prison facility. He requested money in one message in exchange for food and smokes, sending a picture of his prisoner identification card and a picture of his cell as evidence of his detention.

On August 7, Mr. Amirov and Mr. Omarov talked about how Mr. Mehdiyev’s detention was covered by the media.

Brother, he’s gotten well-liked,” Mr. Amirov wrote.

Mr. Omarov responded, “I hope he won’t cause trouble for me.

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