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Four Iranian nationals have been charged with trying to kidnap Iranian-American rights activist and journalist Masih Alinejad in New York and take her back to Iran to be jailed

Four Iranian nationals were indicted Tuesday on charges of plotting to abduct a journalist in New York and smuggle her out of the country to Iran, the Justice Department said.

US-based journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, who is of Iranian descent and is an outspoken critic of the Tehran government, confirmed on Twitter that she was the target of the alleged plot.

“This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani,” she added, referring to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, widely seen as a political moderate.

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The four men named in the indictment are an Iranian intelligence official and three officers who work under him, according to a statement from the Justice Department. It said they all live in Iran.

According to the Justice Department indictment, the intelligence officers had first tried in 2018 to force relatives of their kidnap target, referred to only as Victim-1, to lure her to a third country to be arrested and brought to Iran to be imprisoned.

– Evacuation by Speedboat –

It alleged that the men researched how to bring Alinejad from the United States to Iran. One of the accused allegedly looked into travel routes from her home to a waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn, while another was researching a “service offering military-style speedboats for self-operated maritime evacuation out of Manhattan.”

The indictment said that in July of 2019, the chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Courts said that anyone sending out video attacking the regime, in particular contradicting the law that women must cover their heads, “was committing the crime of cooperating with a hostile foreign government and would be sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.”

The Iranian network uncovered by the FBI was also scoping out other targets in Canada, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, and had tried to deploy similar methods of surveillance there, the indictment said.

A fifth Iranian residing in California, Niloufar Bahadorifar, was suspected of having helped in financing the plot.

Iran is considered one of the most repressive regimes towards journalists in the world , exerting “relentless control” over the flow of information in the country, according to Reporters Without Borders. The NGO said 860 journalist have been arrested, imprisoned and in some cases executed since the 1979 revolution.

While his wife was released after two months, he was accused of spying for the United States and spent 544 days in the notorious Evin prison in northern Tehran, where he said he was subjected to sleep deprivation and threatened with beheading.


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