Masih Alinejad -The Iranian Intelligence Plot to Kidnap A US Journalist-Activist

Faye Higbee
masih alinejad

On July 13, the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office announced charges against four Iranian Intelligence operatives for plotting to kidnap American journalist-activist Masih Alinejad. The FBI approached Alinejad 8 months ago to warn her about an Iranian plot to kidnap her. They relocated her and her husband as they conducted their investigation.

Masih Alinejad is an American citizen – author, journalist, and human rights activist who has openly stood against the Iranian regime over their treatment of women and its own citizens. Those Iranian citizens have risked their lives to reject the Islamic hardliners.

The Manhattan US Attorney released news of charges against Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, a/k/a “Vezarat Salimi,” a/k/a “Haj Ali,” Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori:  (1) conspiring to kidnap, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison (Count One), (2) conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and sanctions against the Government of Iran, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison (Count Two), (3) conspiring to commit bank and wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison (Count Three), and (4) conspiring to launder money, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison (Count Four).

A fifth person, Niloufar Bahadorifar, a/k/a “Nellie Bahadorifar,” was residing in California and arrested on July 1, and arraigned on July 8 for allegedly providing “financial services that supported the plot and is charged with conspiring to violate sanctions against Iran, to commit bank and wire fraud, and to commit money laundering.” The other four remain at large and are likely in Iran.

The indicted Iranian nationals, all of whom still remain at large and likely in Iran, contracted private investigators in Manhattan to surveil Alinejad and her family, falsely claiming that the journalist was a “missing person from Dubai” to avoid debt payment obligations.

The operatives reportedly obtained information on Alinejad’s family, license plate, home address, and street view, while also researching ways to smuggle the would-be victim to Iran through Venezuela by sea, according to The New York Times

The Iranian Regime has been able to silence critics outside of its borders by kidnapping and killing exiled journalists residing in the West.

The Daily Caller

The US Attorney’s office stated that luring Iranian dissidents in various countries is how they silence critics of the regime. They kidnap Iranians who shine the light on their human rights abuses and either imprison them or execute them. The Iranian intelligence operatives approached Alinejad’s relatives in Iran and asked them to have her visit a third country. They refused.

On a device used by Farahani, photos were found of Alinejad and two others, one of whom was executed and the other jailed. The caption read: “Gradually the gathering gets bigger…  Are you coming, or should we come for you?”

Farahani is the head of a network of operatives for Iranian intelligence. According to the DOJ, they have “targeted victims in other countries, including victims in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates, and has worked to procure similar surveillance of those victims.”

Every person in the United States must be free from harassment, threats and physical harm by foreign powers.  Through this indictment, we bring to light one such pernicious plot to harm an American citizen who was exercising their First Amendment rights, and we commit ourselves to bring the defendants to justice.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko


Featured photo: Masih Alinejad – Screenshot from BBC

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