Federal prosecutors have charged four Iranian intelligence operatives with conspiring to kidnap a Brooklyn author and human rights activist.
The four – Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori, all living in Iran – are accused of plotting to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist, author and human rights activist who criticized the Iranian regime.
A fifth, Niloufar Bahadorifar, is accused of providing financial support.
The perpetrator was not named in court documents, but Masih Alinejad told NBC News she was the target.
A law enforcement official familiar with the case also identified the perpetrator as Alinejad.
“I have been targeted for several years, but this is the first time that such a daring plot has been hatched and foiled,” Alinejad said by email Tuesday evening.
In 2020, Alinejad wrote in the Washington Post that she learned of the Iranian regime’s intention to kidnap her. “It was a horrible experience, but I can’t say it was completely unexpected. The regime has tried many forms of intimidation to silence me over the years,” she wrote.
Prosecutors said the Iranian government ordered supporters to kidnap the author and return her to Iran.
Farahani is an Iranian intelligence official who lives in Iran, and Khazein, Sadeghi and Noori are Iranian intelligence officers who work for him, the Justice Ministry said.
Prosecution documents say the men hired private investigators, misrepresenting who they were and what they wanted, to monitor the perpetrator in Brooklyn in 2020 and 2021.
Prosecutors said Farahni’s intelligence network also investigated how to get the author out of New York. One of the four sought a service offering “military-style speedboats for autonomous maritime evacuation from New York and sea voyages from New York to Venezuela, a country whose de facto government enjoys friendly relations with Iran. “, the Ministry of Justice. mentionned.
Alinejad said on Tuesday that because Iranian intelligence agents were involved, she believes Iranian President Hassan Rouhani knew about it and approved the plot.
“The regime jailed my brother and interrogated my family. Now this plot. Everything to silence me,” she said.
Alinejad fled Iran in 2009 and since 2014 has lived in New York City, she wrote in the Washington Post. She criticized the Iranian government’s human rights violations and launched a campaign against dress codes for women, including compulsory wearing of the hijab.
In 2019, Alinejad’s brother was arrested by Iranian officials and sentenced to eight years in prison. Alinejad wrote that he had been tortured and tried in secret without the presence of his lawyer.
US prosecutors have said in court documents that for at least the past two years, Iranian intelligence services have lured Iranian expatriates living in other countries to places where they could be captured, imprisoned in Iran and executed. .
Phil helsel contributed.