Federal prosecutors on Friday revealed further arrests in what they have called an Iranian murder-for-hire plan, six months after a man was found outside the Brooklyn, New York, home of a renowned Iranian dissident journalist brandishing a loaded AK-47-style rifle.
Rafat Amirov and Polad Omarov were charged with crimes on Friday by the Justice Department for allegedly targeting journalist Masih Alinejad because her reporting exposed Iran’s violations of human rights, its treatment of women, and its suppression of political participation.
Omarov resides in Eastern Europe, while Amirov is an Iranian. According to the court papers, they were members of an Eastern European criminal network with connections to Iran and Khalid Mehdiyev, who had previously been detained in Brooklyn.
The criminal complaint states that Amirov, the group’s commander, collaborated with Omarov to pay $30,000 to Mehdiyev, “who subsequently purchased an AK-47 style assault rifle for carrying out the murder.”
According to a charging document, Mehdiyev “surveilled the Victim and members of the Victim’s family, took pictures and videos of the Victim’s residence in Brooklyn and the surrounding neighborhood, and developed schemes to lure the Victim out of the Victim’s house” at Amirov and Omarov’s instructions.
The Justice Department alleges that the government of Iran has previously targeted dissidents and Alinejad in particular. In 2018, Iranian government officials attempted to “induce relatives of the Victim who reside in Iran to invite the Victim to travel to a third country for the apparent purpose of having the Victim arrested or detained and transported to Iran for imprisonment,” prosecutors allege.
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Omarov tasked Mehdiyev on July 13, 2022, with carrying out the murder-for-hire plot, the DOJ claims. According to court documents, the men allegedly arranged to have a cash payment of $30,000 delivered to Mehdiyev, who then acquired an AK-47-type weapon to carry out the attack. Mehdiyev is accused of referring to the gun in a message to the other conspirators as a “war machine.”
The three guys allegedly planned to force Alinejad, 45, out of her home for eight days while keeping watch over her house. According to the records, one strategy called for sending her flowers so she would have to go outdoors.
It will be a spectacle once she leaves the house, Mehdiyev allegedly texted Omarov. A day later, on July 28, Mehdiyev was stopped by the NYPD after leaving the area and was arrested.
“Today’s indictment exposes a dangerous menace to national security — a double threat posed by a vicious transnational crime group operating from what it thought was the haven of a rogue nation: Iran,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Friday.
According to the complaint, the Iranians were so determined to silence Alinejad that their intelligence agents devised several potential escape routes, including transit from Brooklyn, a speedboat from Manhattan, and another boat to Venezuela.
Amirov and Omarov are accused of paying someone else to kill someone. Amirov made a brief court appearance on Friday to enter a not-guilty plea to the alleged murder for hire. He made no objections to being detained without bail.
The prosecution did not explain how Amirov, a resident of Iran, was captured by American authorities. United States officials are requesting Omirov’s extradition after his arrest in the Czech Republic. Next week, Mehdiyev, who was previously detained, is anticipated in court.
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