Jul 13, 2021 - World

N.Y. court indicts Iranians over plot to kidnap journalist, human rights activist

: The Empire State Building is seen through the Manhattan Bridge.

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

A New York court unveiled indictments against four Iranians and one California resident over a conspiracy to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist and human rights activist who criticized the Iranian regime, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The DOJ said the conspirators intended to kidnap the victim by luring them out of the U.S. before sending them to Iran for rendition and imprisonment.

  • The indictments are the result of an ongoing investigation into the conspiracy by the FBI’s New York Field Office.

What they're saying: “Every person in the United States must be free from harassment, threats and physical harm by foreign powers,” said Mark Lesko, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

  • “Through this indictment, we bring to light one such pernicious plot to harm an American citizen who was exercising their First Amendment rights, and we commit ourselves to bring the defendants to justice," Lesko added.

The big picture: The DOJ noted that Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori, all from Iran, were charged with conspiracies related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud and money laundering.

  • Niloufar Bahadorifar, an Iranian residing in California, was also charged for allegedly providing financial services to the other conspirators that supported the plot and for violating sanctions against Iran.

The department said an electronic device used by Farahani that investigators obtained contained a photo of the victim alongside photos of two other people, both of whom were lured from a third country and captured by Iranian intelligence.

  • One of the two people lured away was later executed and the other was imprisoned in Iran.
  • The conspirators misrepresented their identities to hire private investigators to surveil, photograph and record the victim and their household members in Brooklyn.
  • The conspirators also researched ways to extract the victim from the U.S., including a service offering maritime travel out of New York to Venezuela.
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