WORLD

4 Iranian nationals charged with alleged kidnapping plot of US journalist, court documents say

Jul 14, 2021, 7:57 AM | Updated: 8:01 am

    (CNN) — Four Iranian nationals have been charged in an alleged plot to kidnap a US journalist and human rights activist from New York, court documents show.

According to an indictment unsealed in a New York federal court Tuesday, Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, aka Vezerat Salimi and Haj Ali, 50; Mahmoud Khazein, 42; Kiya Sadeghi, 35; and Omid Noori, 45, all of Iran, conspired to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist critical of the Iranian regime.

The four were charged with conspiracies related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering, according to the indictment. They are based in Iran and remain at large, authorities said.

“As alleged, four of the defendants 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,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said in a news release Tuesday.

A fifth person, Niloufar “Nellie” Bahadorifar, was also charged with sanctions violations conspiracy, bank and wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and structuring charges for allegedly providing financial services that supported the plot, according to the attorney’s office. Bahadorifar, a California resident originally from Iran, was arrested on July 1 in California and arraigned on July 8, prosecutors said.

Masih Alinejad, an activist with over 5 million followers on Instagram, said she is the journalist targeted in the plot. The US Attorney’s Office declined comment on the case.

Speaking to CNN on Wednesday morning, Alinejad said the FBI approached her about 8 months ago and said her house was not safe.

“And I was like, you must be kidding me because I receive daily death threats, what’s new? I’m here in America, they cannot do anything,” she said. The FBI then revealed photos of her “private life” allegedly taken by private investigators at her home, and she said she was shocked the Iranian government got close to her “and then I took it serious.”

She was under FBI protection until now, she told CNN, adding that she was in different safe houses for her protection. Still, she said she would not stop her activism, in which she shares photos and videos of “voiceless” Iranian mothers protesting the regime, she said.

“Not at all, you know why? Because these mothers are my heroes. Millions of Iranians who share photos and videos of themselves practicing their civil disobedience, those are the Rosa Parks of Iran,” she said. “They are my heroes. To be honest, I have fear inside me, but what gives me power, these people. I am going to stop my activities the day when the Iranian people stop saying no to the Islamic Republic.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh called the allegations baseless and ridiculous, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

“This is not the first time that the United States has undertaken such Hollywood scenarios,” he said.

“The US government’s new claim … is baseless and ridiculous and is not really worth answering,” he added.

The alleged details of the plot

Before the alleged kidnapping plot, the indictment said, the government of Iran tried to lure Alinejad, referred to as Victim-1 in the indictment, by having her relatives who lived in Iran invite her to travel to a third country, with the apparent purpose of having her “detained and transported to Iran for imprisonment.”

Her relatives did not accept the offer, prosecutors said in their statement.

According to the indictment Farahani, an Iranian intelligence officer who resides in Iran, and his network, allegedly hired private investigators, “to surveil, photograph and video record Victim-1 and Victim-1’s household members in Brooklyn.”

Farahani’s network procured days’ worth of video and photographs and installed a live high-definition video feed of the victim’s home.

According to officials, Farahani’s network has targeted other victims in other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

“This is not 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,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said. “When we find you, you will be brought here and held accountable under U.S. law.”

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

World

FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un del...
Yoonjung Seo, Emiko Jozuka, Junko Ogura, Brad Lendon and Simone McCarthy, CNN

Japan issues rare alert as North Korea fires missile without warning over main island

The US Indo-Pacific Command also released a statement saying American commitments to the defense of Japan and South Korea "remain ironclad."
7 hours ago
supreme court pictured, its new term has started and will hear new cases...
The Associated Press

Supreme Court’s top cases for new term, new Justice Jackson

Already the Supreme Court has said it will decide cases on a range of major issues including affirmative action, voting rights and the rights of LGBTQ people.
1 day ago
FORT MYERS BEACH, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 02:   In this aerial view,  destruction left in the wake of Hur...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Florida faces an ’emotional roller coaster’ as search for Hurricane Ian survivors continues

Many of the Ian-related deaths -- 42 -- have been reported in southwestern Florida's Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
1 day ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Sacheen Littlefeather on stage at AMPAS Presents An Evening...
Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American activist and actress, dead at 75

In August, the Academy formally apologized to Littlefeather for the mistreatment she experienced during her speech and in the years that followed.
1 day ago
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said that he will vote against any potential congressional d...
Devan Cole, CNN

Rubio vows to oppose potential Hurricane Ian aid package if lawmakers ‘load it up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm’

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he will vote against any potential congressional disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Ian if lawmakers "load it up with stuff that's unrelated to the storm."
2 days ago
Temple Square...
Devin Oldroyd

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces the construction of 18 new temples

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the construction of 18 new temples.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
4 Iranian nationals charged with alleged kidnapping plot of US journalist, court documents say