- Three men were indicted on charges of money laundering and murder-for-hire, the DOJ said.
- The target, Masih Alinejad, told The Associated Press that the FBI read her the messages the men exchanged.
- The indictment did not say whether the Iranian regime was directly involved in the killing order.
The Justice Department on Friday announced charges against three men who authorities believe are part of an Eastern European criminal organization that planned to assassinate an Iranian writer and activist living in exile in New York City.
Rafat Amirov, 43, from Iran; Polad Omarov, 38, from the Czech Republic and Slovenia; and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, of Yonkers, New York; was charged with money laundering and murder for hire, the DOJ said in a statement.
While the DOJ did not reveal the identity of the activist, Masih Alinejad confirmed on Twitter that she was the target.
—Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) 27 January 2023
“Yes, this is the face of a person who was the target of an assassination,” Alinejad so. “Let me make it clear, I am not afraid for my life because I knew that murder, assassination, hanging, torture, rape are in the DNA of the Islamic Republic.”
Alinejad told The Associated Press that the FBI read her the messages the men exchanged,
I am not afraid, Alinejad told AP. “I want to tell you that the Iranian regime thinks that by trying to kill me, they will silence me, or silence other women. But they are only empowering me, empowering me to fight for democracy and vote for brave women facing guns and bullets in the streets to get rid of the Islamic Republic.”
While the man behind the plot is in Iran, the DOJ indictment did not say whether the Iranian government was behind the plot.
“The victim in this case was targeted for exercising the rights to which every American citizen is entitled. The victim publicized the Iranian government’s human rights violations; discriminatory treatment of women; suppression of democratic participation and expression; and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and execution,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
According to the DOJ, the criminal organization was tasked with murdering Alinejad, who had previously been the target of “plans by the government of Iran to intimidate, harass and kidnap” her. The attempted murder plot had been active since at least July 2022.
The attempt was part of a continuation of plots and threats against the Brooklyn-based journalist and author. In July 2021, the DOJ charged four Iranian intelligence officials with an attempted kidnapping of Alinejad.
“Today’s indictment exposes a dangerous threat to national security — a dual threat posed by a vicious transnational criminal group operating from what it believed to be the safe haven of a rogue nation: Iran,” Deputy US Attorney Lisa Monaco said in a statement. “As national security and criminal threats continue to collide, the Justice Department will use all its tools to zealously protect freedom and hold accountable all those who would use violence to undermine it.”