Iranian Intelligence Officer, Three Others Charged in Plot to Kidnap US Journalist in New York

Federal authorities on Tuesday charged an Iranian intelligence officer and three alleged members of an Iranian intelligence network with plotting to kidnap an American journalist from New York.

According to an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court, the kidnapping ploy was part of a broader effort to lure three people from Canada and a person from the United Kingdom to Iran.

The New York journalist is not identified in the indictment but is described as a Brooklyn resident, journalist, and human rights activist, who drew attention to Iran’s human rights abuses.

The four defendants charged in the kidnapping plot “monitored and planned to kidnap a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime’s autocracy, and to forcibly take their intended victim to Iran, where the victim’s fate would have been uncertain at best,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.

Authorities identified the Iranian intelligence officer as Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani. If convicted, he and the three other defendants could all face life in prison.

“Among this country’s most cherished freedoms is the right to speak one’s mind without fear of government reprisal. A U.S. citizen living in the United States must be able to advocate for human rights without being targeted by foreign intelligence operatives,” Strauss added.

“Every person in the United States must be free from harassment, threats and physical harm by foreign powers,” Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said. “Through this indictment, we bring to light one such pernicious plot to harm an American citizen who was exercising their First Amendment rights.”

William Sweeney, the head of New York’s FBI office, noted that the indictment sounded a bit like “some far-fetched movie plot.”

“We allege a group, backed by the Iranian government, conspired to kidnap a U.S. based journalist here on our soil and forcibly return her to Iran. Not on our watch,” he said.

Farahani hired private investigators to surveil the Brooklyn journalist and his household members. The surveillance included a live high-definition video feed of the journalist’s home.

The indictment alleged that the government of Iran in 2018 tried to lure the journalist to a third country so a capture would be possible, even offering money to the journalist’s relatives to try to make it possible. The relatives, the indictment said, refused the offer.

Authorities said Iranian intelligence services has previously lured other Iranian dissidents from France and the United States to capture and imprison critics of the Iranian regime and have publicly claimed responsibility for the capture operations.

They noted, as did the indictment, that an electronic device used by Farahani contains a photograph of the New York journalist alongside pictures of two other individuals. Those individuals, the indictment said, were captured by Iranian intelligence authorities. One was later executed and the other was imprisoned, it said.

The others charged in the kidnapping plot were identified as Mahmoud Khazein, 42, Kiya Sadeghi, 35, and Omid Noori, 45, all from Iran.

According to the indictment, Sadeghi researched a service offering military-style speedboats that could perform a maritime evacuation out of New York City that would ultimately reach Venezuela, whose de facto government has friendly relations with Iran.

Khazein, it said, researched travel routes from the journalist’s residence to a waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn and the location of the journalist’s residence relative to Venezuela and Tehran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times