US charges three in Tehran-linked murder plot against Iranian-American journalist

Government says it will 'not tolerate' attempts to shut down speech 'critical' of Iran

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

US federal prosecutors on Friday charged three members of an organisation with ties to Tehran for conspiring to assassinate an Iranian-American journalist in New York.

The men, all allegedly members of an Eastern European criminal group, are now in custody and will stand trial in the US on murder-for-hire and money-laundering charges.

“As alleged, the defendants are members of an organised crime group hired to assassinate, right here in New York City, a US citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime's autocracy and its disregard for human rights,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams.

Officials did not name the victim, but journalist and activist Masih Alinejad said she was the operatives' target.

“I just learnt from 12 FBI agents that the three men hired by the Iranian regime to kill me on US soil have been indicted,” she wrote on Twitter.

Alinejad was the target of a kidnapping attempt in 2021.

“This is the second time in the past two years that this office and our partners at the FBI have disrupted plots originating from within Iran to kidnap or kill this victim for the ‘crime’ of exercising the right to free speech,” Mr Williams said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the US will defend the right to free speech.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate attempts by an authoritarian regime to undermine those protections and the rule of law upon which our democracy is based. We will not tolerate attempts by a foreign power to threaten, silence or harm Americans,” he said.

The US has foiled a number of Iranian attempts to kill Americans in recent years.

An Iranian operative that was part of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was last year accused of being part of a plot to kill former Trump administration official John Bolton.

“The law enforcement action today is the latest US disruption of plotting activities against this victim and other Americans,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said following the indictment announcement on Friday.

“It 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.”

Updated: January 27, 2023, 6:00 PM