A New York federal court has indicted three men this weekend over an alleged plot to assassinate Iranian-American human rights activist Masih Alinejad.
The U.S. Justice Department announcedthat Rafat Amirow, Khalid Mehdiyev and Polad Omarov have been charged with money laundering and murder for fire conspiracy accounts. The three men are members of an Eastern European gang called Thieves-in-Law that has ties to the Iranian regime.
Alinejad has been targeted by Iranian assets on U.S. soil in the past, and this latest scheme highlights Tehran’s willingness to conduct brazen acts of terror abroad.
Indictment Reveals Details
Over the summer, Mehdiyev was arrested outside Alinejad’s New York home with a loaded AK-47. Camera surveillance allegedly caught the gang member lurking at Alinejad’s address for two days. In addition to the assault rifle, police say they uncovered a large amount of cash and a high-capacity magazine in the trunk of Mehdiyev’s vehicle. According to Voice of America, the Thieves-in-Law gang members were tasked by individuals in Iran to carry out the assassination. The indictment claims Amirov received targeting intelligence on Alinejad’s residence. This was sent to Omarov, who then directed Mehdiyev to carry out the killing. Mehdiyev has remained in police custody since his initial arrest over the summer, while Omarov and Amirov were arrested overseas this month.
In a statement condemning the Iranian government, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the most recent indictment is “the latest U.S. disruption of plotting activities against this victim and other Americans,” adding that “[i]t follows a disturbing pattern of Iranian government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate into silence activists for speaking out for the fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world.”
Not Iran’s First Try
Just over a year and a half prior to this incident, another Iran-directed plot to kidnap Alinejad was unmasked by federal prosecutors in New York. An Iranian intelligence official and his three assets were charged for an alleged ploy to kidnap Alinejad and take her to Iran, possibly via a maritime evacuation. Though the plan was ultimately foiled by the FBI, Iran has not stopped its efforts to attack Alinejad on U.S. soil. The Iran-born activist was forced to flee from her homeland in 2009 after being threatened by her government for exposing the harassment of women by morality police when she was a parliamentary reporter in Tehran.
Since moving to the U.S., Alinejad has continued her activism in support of Iranian women speaking out against the regime and its brutal practices. Alinejad has spearheaded many protests that counter Iran’s compulsory headscarf policy, and she remains an influential figure in the protests that have enveloped Iran.
Alinejad’s Plea to U.S. Officials
Alinejad has voiced her frustration with the Biden administration for not taking more definitive action against the regime whenever a plot on U.S. soil is uncovered. In an emotional plea on CNN this week, Alinejad criticized the White House for continuing to negotiate with the Iranian government as these brazen acts go on. She also said the Biden team should pressure the European Union to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
The Iranian regime has been severely weakened by the protests sweeping the country. Since the government in Tehran is particularly vulnerable at the moment, the White House should respond to the recently published indictments with harsh measures. Time and time again, Iran’s clerical regime has shown it is capable and willing to sponsor acts of terrorism in America.
Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.