A California woman has been sentenced to four years in jail for her role in the attempted kidnapping of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist who has been living in exile in the US since 2009.
Niloufar Bahadorifar, a US citizen originally from Iran, pleaded guilty to conspiring to break US economic sanctions on Iran by helping to provide money to a private investigator, who was given the task of monitoring Ms Alinejad.
“Niloufar Bahadorifar willfully violated sanctions and knowingly provided financial support to Iranian intelligence assets, who in turn were engaged in a plot to kidnap an Iranian human rights activist living in the United States whom the Iranian government has sought to silence for years,” said US Attorney Damian Williams.
“Assisting malign foreign governments by violating sanctions can have devastating consequences, including for those targeted by hostile regimes for retribution.”
Bahadorifar was not accused of being involved in or knowing about the plot to kidnap Ms Alinejad.
In July 2021, US federal investigators revealed that they had stopped an alleged plot to kidnap Ms Alinejad from her New York City home.
Authorities charged an Iranian Intelligence officer and others in New York with attempting to kidnap Ms Alinejad and take her back to Iran. Tehran has denied the charge and the four defendants, who all reside in Iran, have never stood trial.
Ms Alinejad, an activist-journalist, became a US citizen in 2019. She has been an advocate for women's rights in Iran for years and has played a prominent role in amplifying the voices of demonstrators during the most recent wave of protests, which began in September 2022.
She asked the judge for a tough sentence to be handed down.
“This crime left its mark. Every day when I go out in the street, I have to look over my shoulders,” Ms Alinejad told Judge Ronnie Abrams. “I miss my tree-lined street and my neighbours who treated me as one of their own,”
The activist has been forced to live in a series of safe houses under the protection of the federal government since the plot was revealed.
In addition to her prison term, Bahadorifar was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report