U.S. prosecutors have charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, with plotting to kidnap a New York journalist and human rights activist who was critical of Iran, according to a Justice Department indictment unsealed on Tuesday (July 13).
While the indictment did not name the target of the plot, Reuters has confirmed she is Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad, who has contributed to the U.S. government-funded Voice of America Persian language service and reports on human rights issues in Iran.
Asked by Reuters to confirm that Alinejad was the target of the plot, the Department of Justice declined to comment.
In recent years, Iranian intelligence officers have tricked a number of overseas activists to travel to destinations where they were kidnapped and sent back to Iran, U.S. authorities said.
The four Iranians hired private investigators under false pretenses to surveil the journalist in Brooklyn, videotaping her family and home as part of a plot to kidnap her, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said the Iranian operatives had researched how they might spirit the journalist out of New York on a high-speed boat headed for Caracas.
Representatives for the Mission of Iran to the U.N. could not be reached for comment.
On a phone conversation with Reuters after the indictment was released Alinejad said Iranian operatives had tried multiple times to lure her to Turkey with threats and promises to meet family.
She said she was was in a state of shock from reading the indictment.
“I can’t believe I’m not even safe in America,” she said.
(Production: Paul Warren, Avivit Delgoshen)