Four Iranian nationals were charged Tuesday with conspiring to kidnap a journalist in New York and smuggle her out of the country to Iran, the Justice Department said.
US-based journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, of Iranian descent and vocal critic of the government in Tehran, confirmed on Twitter that she was the target of the alleged plot.
“This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani,” she added, referring to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, widely regarded as a moderate politician.
The four men named in the indictment are an Iranian intelligence official and three officers who work under him, according to a Justice Ministry statement. He says they all live in Iran.
According to the indictment of the Ministry of Justice, intelligence agents first attempted in 2018 to force relatives of their kidnapped target, known only as Victim-1, to lure him in a third country to be arrested and taken to Iran for imprisonment.
– Outboard evacuation –
He alleged that the men researched how to bring Alinejad from the United States to Iran. One of the defendants reportedly looked at travel routes between his home and a Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood, while another sought a “service offering military-style speedboats for a self-sustaining Manhattan maritime evacuation.”
The indictment states that in July 2019, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Courts declared that anyone uploading a video attacking the regime, in particular contradicting the law that women must cover their heads, “was committing the crime to cooperate with a hostile foreign government. and would be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Iranian network discovered by the FBI was also looking for other targets in Canada, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, and had attempted to deploy similar surveillance methods there, according to the indictment.
A fifth Iranian residing in California, Niloufar Bahadorifar, was believed to have helped finance the plot.
Iran is considered one of the most repressive regimes in the world against journalists, exercising “relentless control” over the flow of information in the country, according to Reporters Without Borders. The NGO said 860 journalists have been arrested, jailed and in some cases executed since the 1979 revolution.
While his wife was released after two months, he was charged with spying for the United States and spent 544 days in the infamous Evin prison in northern Tehran, where he said he had been subjected to sleep deprivation and threatened with beheading.
led-bur / jh / caw