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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.

Go deeper

Justice Department to investigate Texas juvenile detention centers

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it would open an investigation into the conditions in five juvenile correctional facilities in Texas, citing reports of physical and sexual abuse.

Driving the news: The department has investigated a number of states over their treatment of juveniles because "protecting the rights of children throughout the juvenile justice system is a top priority," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.

3 hours ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.