According to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court in New York, Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, aka Vezerat Salimi and Haj Ali, 50; Mahmoud Khazein, 42 years old; Kiya Sadeghi, 35 years old; and Omid Noori, 45, all Iranian, conspired to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist critical of the Iranian regime.
The four men were charged with conspiracies related to kidnappings, sanctions violations, banking and electronic fraud and money laundering, according to the indictment. They are based in Iran and remain at large, authorities said.
“As alleged, four of the defendants monitored and planned to kidnap an American citizen of Iranian descent who criticized the regime’s autocracy, and forcibly take their victim to Iran, where the fate of the victim would have been at best. uncertain, ”US Attorney General for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, said in a statement Tuesday.
A fifth person, Niloufar “Nellie” Bahadorifar, has also been charged with conspiracy to violate sanctions, conspiracy of bank and electronic fraud, conspiracy of money laundering and charges of structuring for allegedly providing financial services which supported the plot, according to the prosecutor’s office. Bahadorifar, a California resident from Iran, was arrested on July 1 in California and arraigned on July 8, prosecutors said.
Speaking to CNN on Wednesday morning, Alinejad said the FBI approached her about 8 months ago and said her home was not safe.
“And I was like, you have to be laughing at me because I get death threats every day, what’s up?” I am here in America, there is nothing they can do, ”she said. The FBI then revealed photos of her “private life” which were allegedly taken by private investigators at her home, and she said she was shocked that the Iranian government approached her “and then I took things seriously ”.
She was under FBI protection until now, she told CNN, adding that she was in different safe houses for her protection. Still, she said she would not stop her activism, in which she shares photos and videos of “speechless” Iranian mothers protesting against the regime, she said.
“Not at all, do you know why?” Because these mothers are my heroines. Millions of Iranians who share photos and videos of themselves practicing civil disobedience are the Rosa Parks of Iran, ”she said. “They are my heroes. To be honest, I have fear in me, but what gives me power, these people. I will stop my activities when the Iranian people stop saying no to the Islamic Republic. “
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called the allegations baseless and ridiculous, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
“This is not the first time that the United States has undertaken such Hollywood scenarios,” he said.
“The new assertion by the US government (…) is baseless and ridiculous and not really worth responding to,” he added.
The alleged details of the plot
Prior to the alleged kidnapping plot, according to the indictment, the Iranian government attempted to lure Alinejad, referred to as Victim-1 in the indictment, by asking her relatives who lived in Iran to invite her to go to a third country, with the apparent aim of having “detained and transported her to Iran to be imprisoned there”.
His relatives did not accept the offer, prosecutors said in their statement.
According to the indictment, Farahani, an Iranian intelligence officer residing in Iran, and his network, allegedly hired private investigators, “to monitor, photograph and videotape Victim 1 and members of the family of the Victim 1 in Brooklyn ”.
Farahani’s network has acquired days of video and photographs and installed a high-definition video feed live from the victim’s home.
According to officials, Farahani’s network has targeted other victims in other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
“This is not a far-fetched movie plot. We claim that a group, backed by the Iranian government, conspired to kidnap a US-based journalist here on our soil and forcibly return her to Iran. Not under our watch, ”said William, deputy director of the FBI. F. Sweeney Jr. said. “When we find you, you will be brought here and held accountable under US law. “