US charges three in Iran-linked plot to assassinate journalist | Crime News
The United States Department of Justice has charged three people in a suspected foiled assassination plot to assassinate an Iranian-American journalist, a plan Washington says was orchestrated from Iran.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges on Friday, saying the Iranian government had previously targeted the intended victim, who was a critic of Tehran.
Garland did not identify the journalist, but Khalid Mehdiyev, one of the three accused, was arrested outside the New York home of outspoken Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad last year.
“These charges stem from an ongoing investigation into the Iranian government’s efforts to assassinate on U.S. soil a journalist, author and human rights activist who is a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent,” the attorney general said.
The other two defendants are Rafat Amirov and Polad Omarov. The trio faces charges of murder for hire and money laundering, and Mehdiyev is accused of possessing a gun with a defaced serial number.
The Justice Department said Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic earlier this month and Washington will seek his extradition. Amirov, described as the leader of an Eastern European criminal organization, is currently in US custody.
Garland said the third man in the group, Mehdiyev, was monitoring the victim and sending reports to Omarov, who in turn shared them with Amirov.
It is not clear how the US was able to arrest Amirov, who was stationed in Iran.
“All we can say is that he was lawfully arrested outside the United States and is now in United States custody in New York,” Garland said.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the indictments uncovered a “dangerous threat” to the US — a “transnational criminal group” operating on behalf of what she called a “rogue nation” in relation to Iran.
“This case began with our investigation into Iran’s efforts to project power and extend its tentacles of oppression onto American shores, culminating in the attack on an Iranian-American journalist who fought back against the brutal regime,” Monaco told reporters .
This is not the first time Iran has been linked to plots on US soil. Last year, the US accused a suspected member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of plotting an assassination attempt on former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who served under former President Donald Trump.
In 2021, the Justice Department charged four Iranians who were allegedly intelligence operatives in an alleged conspiracy to kidnap an American journalist, also believed to be Alinejad.
Tehran has dismissed allegations of government involvement in the kidnapping plot as “ridiculous and unfounded”.
“I’m not afraid [for] my life, but it’s scary that this is happening in front of the whole world, especially the US government,” Alinejad told CNN after news of Mehdiyev’s arrest near her home broke last August.
Alinejad has shared videos of women violating Iran’s headgear law with her millions of social media followers. She has also called for a stronger US and Western response in support of the Iranian anti-government protests that erupted last year.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Friday’s indictment underscores Washington’s commitment to protecting Americans everywhere.
“From the beginning of this administration, it has been clear to us that Iran’s apparatus of transnational repression and terrorism must be confronted through exposure, arrests, sanctions and other means of accountability,” he said in a statement.
The Iran-linked charges came amid stalled efforts to revive the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, under which Tehran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions on its economy.
US-Iranian relations have been further complicated by the suppression of protests in Iran and Washington’s claims that Tehran is continuing to supply drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.
“We still believe that diplomacy is the best way to ensure in a sustainable and verifiable manner that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Thursday. “But as we’ve said, we don’t currently see a deal materializing anytime soon.”
Earlier this week, the US and Israel, both staunch enemies of Iran, completed the largest joint military exercise in their history