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Iran critic in U.S. targeted by murder plot, DOJ says

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces that the U.S. Justice Department has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google over allegations that the company abused its dominance of the digital advertising business, during an appearance in the Justice Department’s briefing room in Washington, January 24, 2023. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Three members of an Eastern European crime group were arrested for a thwarted murder-for-hire plot targeting a U.S. journalist and human rights activist of Iranian origin who is a prominent critic of Iran, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday. 

One of the men, 24-year-old New York resident Khalid Mehdiyev, was apprehended in late July with an AK-47-style assault rifle near the victim’s home in Brooklyn as he was about to “execute the attack on the victim,” according to an indictment unsealed Friday in Manhattan federal court.

Authorities said that the plot was conducted at the behest of unidentified individuals in Iran.

The same victim had been the target of an earlier kidnapping plot, which led to the indictment in 2021 of four people who have ties to Iranian intelligence, authorities said.

Masih Alinejad, an exiled Iranian journalist, identified herself in 2021 as the target of the kidnapping plot. Alinejad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But in a tweet Friday, she wrote, “I just learned from 12 FBI agents that the 3 men hired by the Iranian regime to kill me on US soil have been indicted.”

“The Islamic Revolutionary Guards have been conducting these terrorist operations for four decades. Islamic Republic is ISIS with oil,” she wrote in the tweet, which included a video lasting more than two minutes.

“This is the face of a person who was a target of an assassination plot,” she said on the video. “Let me make it clear: I’m not scared for my life.”

“Because I knew that killing, assassinating, hanging, torturing, raping is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic. And that’s why I came to the United States of America, to practice my right, my freedom of expression, to give voice to brave people of Iran who say no to the Islamic Republic.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in a statement, said, “The law enforcement action today is the latest U.S. disruption of plotting activities against this victim and other Americans.”

“It follows a disturbing pattern of Iranian Government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate into silence activists for speaking out for the fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world,” Sullivan said,

The latest plot began in 2022, when members of the Eastern European crime organization known as “Thieves-in-Law,” which has ties to Iran, were enlisted to assassinate the victim, according to an indictment, which does not identify the victim by name.

That group’s participation in the plot was directed by a man named Rafat Amirov, the group’s leader, who lives in Iran and “who was tasked with targeting the Victim by individuals…

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