The US has sanctioned four Iranian intelligence operatives reportedly behind a failed plot to kidnap a US journalist and human rights activist, the Treasury Department announced on Friday.
The sanctions come after US prosecutors in July charged the four Iranian citizens with plotting to kidnap Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad, who was critical of Tehran.
Alinejad, who lives in New York, spoke with The National in July following the news of the indictment by the US Department of Justice.
“When the FBI came to my house, I couldn’t believe it at first. I was laughing initially, but when they showed me photos that Iran’s intelligence gathered of me, of my husband, my son and our own house, I realised that this is not funny — it is serious,” Alinejad said in a phone interview with The National, hours after the plot was made public.
Her day-to-day life changed as the FBI carried out its investigation.
“I went to three safe houses,” she said, describing law enforcement efforts to protect her.
It was the first known plot attributed to Iran that has involved kidnapping a US citizen on American soil.
Iran has described allegations of Tehran's involvement in the plot as “baseless".
On Friday after news of the US sanctions broke, Alinejad called them “a small welcome step".
In a statement on the sanctions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US “remains aware of ongoing Iranian interest in targeting other American citizens, including current and former US officials".
He gave no further details.
“The Iranian government's kidnapping plot is another example of its continued attempt to silence critical voices, wherever they may be,” said Andrea Gacki, head of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“Targeting dissidents abroad demonstrates that the government's repression extends far beyond Iran's borders.”
The sanctions block all property of the four Iranians in the US or in US control, and prohibits any transactions between them and US citizens. Other non-Americans who conduct certain transactions with the four could also be subjected to US sanctions, the department added.
Those sanctioned include senior Iran-based intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani as well as Iranian intelligence operatives Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori, the Treasury Department said.