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Three arrested in Iranian plot to kill U.S. journalist

Amirov reportedly paid Mehdiyev $30,000 to purchase a weapon and murder the target.

Published: January 27, 2023 3:28pm

Updated: January 27, 2023 3:43pm

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced that authorities had arrested and charged three individuals for their alleged roles in an Iranian scheme to assassinate a prominent U.S. journalist and critic of the Islamic Republic.

Garland identified Khalid Mehdiyev, Polad Omarov, and Rafat Amirov, as the defendants.

"The indictment unsealed today alleges that individuals in Iran tasked defendant Amirov with targeting the victim in a murder-for-hire plot," Garland stated, alleging that "Amirov, who resided in Iran, is a leader of the Eastern European criminal organization."

"We allege that Amirov then directed defendant Omarov, another leader of the organization, who in turn directed defendant Mehdiyev, a member of the organization, to carry out the plot. Omarov resided in Eastern Europe. Mehdiyev was living in the United States," he continued.

Amirov reportedly paid Mehdiyev $30,000 to purchase a weapon and murder the target. Authorities arrested Mehdiyev in July 2021 and recovered an assault rifle, magazines, and ammunition.

The DOJ did not name the victim, though The Hill pointed to Masih Alinejad as the intended target. Alinejad has confirmed speaking to law enforcement and said she was the target of the plot.

"This is the face of a person who was the target of an assassination plot," she said in a Friday video, referencing herself. "Let me make it clear, I am not scared for my life because I knew that killing, assassinating, hanging, torturing, raping is in the DNA in the Islamic Republic. That’s why I came to the United States of America to practice my right, my freedom of expression to give voice of brave people of Iran to say no to Islamic Republic."

Iran has long orchestrated murder-for-hire attempts against American adversaries, including an effort against from National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of Tehran's most vocal critics. News broke last year that the DOJ was pursuing charges against a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for allegedly paying an assassin $300,000 to take Bolton out.

The former U.S. official later joked that he was "embarrassed at the low price," the assassin ostensibly charged for his death.

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