Iranwire – US prosecutors have charged three alleged members of a criminal organization with ties to Iran’s government with conspiring to murder a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin in New York.
Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their role in the thwarted Tehran-backed plot, the Department of Justice said in a statement on January 27.
The three detained suspected criminals were said to belong to an “Eastern European criminal organization” called the “Organization.”
“The Organization has ties to Iran and is violent, engaging in murders, kidnappings, assaults, and extortions, and members typically identify themselves with tattoos and other displays of eight-pointed stars,” the statement said.
It did not name the alleged victim, but Mehdiyev was arrested last year for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, a U.S.-Iranian outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic.
Alinejad posted a video on Twitter, saying, “I knew that killing, assassinating, hanging, torturing, raping is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic. And that’s why I came to the United States of America: to [exercise] my rights, freedom of expression, to give a voice to the brave people of Iran.”
Damian Williams, the attorney for the Southern District of New York, said it was the second time in the past two years that the US authorities “have disrupted plots originating from within Iran to kidnap or kill this victim for the ‘crime’ of exercising the right to free speech, to independent political thought, and to advocating for the rights of the oppressed and disenfranchised inside Iran.”
Attorney-General Merrick B. Garland said the United States “will not tolerate attempts by a foreign power to threaten, silence, or harm Americans.”
“We will stop at nothing to identify, find, and bring to justice those who endanger the safety of the American people,” he added.
Deputy Attorney-General Lisa O. Monaco said the January 27 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 safe haven of a rogue nation: Iran.”
The statement described Amirov as a leader of the Organization residing in Iran, while Omarov, who also holds a leadership role in the Organization, resides in Eastern Europe. Mehdiyev resides in New York.
Amirov was arrested on January 26 and will have a pretrial hearing in federal court in Manhattan later on January 27. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic earlier this month.