According to federal investigators, four Iranian intelligence operatives plotted to kidnap a Brooklyn-based journalist and transfer her to Iran in order to stifle her criticism of the Islamic republic’s human-rights atrocities.
Masih Alinejad, a writer and activist, confirmed she was the target in a series of tweets, and she did the same in an email to The Post, without saying further.
A person close to the situation further revealed that Alinejad was the intended victim.
If the scheme hadn’t been halted by the FBI, Alinejad would have faced a fate that is “uncertain at best,” according to Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss.
“This is not some far-fetched movie plot,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. added.
“We say that a group backed by the Iranian government plotted to kidnap a US-based journalist and return her to Iran forcibly. “Not on our watch,” he stated emphatically.
Since at least June 2020, the gang, directed by Iranian intelligence agent Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, has allegedly been plotting to kidnap Alinejad inside the United States.
Iranian government officials had previously attempted in vain in 2018 to persuade her family in Iran to invite her to a third country, where she would have been abducted or detained and subsequently imprisoned in Iran, according to authorities.
A photo of Alinejad is purportedly kept on an electronic device utilised by Farahani as evidence in the case.
According to police, the photo showed her with two other people who were arrested by Iranian intelligence, one of whom was eventually executed and the other was imprisoned in Iran.
“As time goes on, the crowd grows larger…”
“Are you coming, or should we come for you?” allegedly said a Farsi photo caption.
The plan to kidnap Alinejad in the United States allegedly included employing private detectives to perform numerous days of surveillance at and near her Brooklyn home, during which she and her family were photographed and recorded on camera.
According to prosecutors, the plotters even arranged for a high-definition video livestream of the residence to be set up, as well as descriptions of Alinejad’s body language.
Members of the kidnapping ring allegedly looked into hiring a company that employs military-style speedboats to transport people from New York City and examined travel routes from Alinejad’s home to a seaside neighbourhood in Brooklyn.
They may have even considered transporting her to Venezuela, where the socialist government has cordial links with Iran.
Farahani, 50, and the other intelligence operatives — Mahmoud Khazein, 42, Kiya Sadeghi, 34, and Omid Noori, 45 — were charged with kidnapping conspiracy, sanctions violations conspiracy, and bank and wire fraud conspiracy in a Manhattan federal court indictment.
Officials said all four defendants are based in Iran and are still at large.
Niloufar “Nellie” Bahadorifar, 46, of California, was also named in the indictment on Tuesday.
She is accused of providing financial services to the plot, including arranging a payment to a private investigator for surveillance of Alinejad.
Bahadorifar, an Iranian national, is not accused of being involved in the kidnapping plot, but he was charged on Tuesday with conspiring to violate Iranian sanctions, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering, as well as structuring more than $445,000 in cash deposits to avoid reporting requirements.
Bahadorifar was detained on a previous charge on July 1 in Irvine, Calif., and freed on a $250,000 bond, according to court records. The next court date for Bahadorifar is Oct. 15.
- Masih Alinejad: Getty Images