A network of alleged Iranian intelligence operatives charged by US prosecutors with plotting to kidnap prominent Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad had targeted at least four other activists in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, according to the prosecutors.
US prosecutors charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, with plotting to kidnap Alinejad, according to a Justice Department indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
Watch: #US federal prosecutors have charged four Iranians with plotting to kidnap Iranian American journalist Masih Alinejad, who had angered #Iran through her pointed criticism of the country’s head-covering laws, according to US prosecutors.https://t.co/bunhP0zvmD pic.twitter.com/wxPQUWUEis— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) July 15, 2021
While the indictment did not name the target of the plot, Alinejad has confirmed she was the target.
Alinejad is a contributor to US government-financed Voice of America’s Persian-language edition who also reports on human rights issues in Iran, with a focus on women’s issues in the country. Her criticism of Iran’s compulsory hijab laws had angered Tehran, according to US prosecutors.
According to the indictment, the four Iranians hired private investigators under false pretenses to surveil Alinejad, videotaping her family and home as part of a plot to forcibly take her to Iran.
The same network of Iranian intelligence operatives targeted at least four other activists in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates, and “has worked to procure similar surveillance of those victims,” prosecutors said.
The indictment did not name the other four activists.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh dismissed the kidnapping allegations as “baseless and ridiculous.”
Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic has been accused of targeting dozens of its critics abroad. Tehran denies the allegations.
In 2019, Paris-based Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam was abducted in Iraq and taken to Iran where he was executed a year later.