The U.S. Justice Department on Friday announced new arrests for a plot to kill a New York journalist and human rights activist critical of the Iranian government.
The three men charged, said to be part of an Eastern European criminal organization with links to Iran, face murder-for-hire and money-laundering charges in connection with the plot to kill journalist Masih Alinejad.
All three defendants are currently in custody, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday.
“Today’s indictment exposes a dangerous threat to national security — a double threat posed by a vicious transnational criminal group operating in what it believes is a safe haven for a rogue state. That rogue state is the Islamic Republic of Iran, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference announcing the charges.
Shortly after the department announced the charges, Alinejad vowed to continue her activism in a video statement released Friday: “Let me be clear: I am not afraid for my life.”
She said: “I will continue to speak out for the brave Iranian leaders, women and men inside Iran who are working to save the rest of the world from one of the most dangerous viruses known as the Islamic Republic .” . “If we don’t take strong action now, we will increasingly confront these terrorists on American soil.”
Last summer, one of the three men was arrested in the Brooklyn borough where Alinejad lives. At that time, the police found a suitcase in the back seat of his car containing a “Norinco AK-47 assault rifle … with a bullet in the chamber and a magazine attached,” a separate The second magazine contained a total of approximately 66 rounds,” one complaint said.
The Justice Department said in a statement Friday that since at least July, the three men were “responsible for carrying out” the murder of Alinejad, who “has been the target of a conspiracy of intimidation, harassment and kidnapping by the Iranian government,” it replied.
“In just 2020 and 2021, Iranian intelligence officials and assets conspired to kidnap (Alinejad) from U.S. soil and extradite him to Iran in order to suppress (Alinejad’s) criticism of the regime,” the department said in a statement.
In an interview with CNN last year, Aleinejad said the Iranian government had been targeting her and her family because of her efforts to speak out for the protest movement in the country of her birth.
“I’m not at all afraid of my life because I know what I’m doing. I only have one life, and I’ve dedicated my life to being a voice for the Iranian people inside Iran who bravely took to the streets – in the face of guns and bullets to protest Iran regime — but it’s happening in America,” she said at the time.
In 2021, Alinejad was the target of another kidnapping plot of Iranian nationals after speaking out against the Islamic Republic. According to the semi-official ISNA news agency, the plot was organized by an Iranian intelligence officer, but Iran’s foreign ministry has denied any involvement, calling the allegations “baseless and absurd”.
This story was updated Friday with more details.