By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The Department of Justice on Friday charged three individuals with allegedly plotting to carry out the assassination of a US journalist critical of the Iranian government.
A 25-page indictment unsealed on Friday in the Southern District of New York charged Iranian national Rafat Amirov, 43; Polad Omarov, 38, of the Czech Republic and Slovenia; and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, of Yonkers, New York with money laundering and murder-for-hire.
Amirov will be arraigned later in the day after he arrived in New York from Iran on Thursday. Mehdiyev was arrested on July 29, and will be arraigned on Jan. 31. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic, and the US has requested his extradition.
Omarov and Amirov are alleged to belong to an Eastern European criminal organization.
Authorities did not name the individual who was allegedly targeted, but described them as a journalist, author, and human rights activist originally from Iran. A separate case charged an Iranian intelligence officer and three other Iranians with plotting to kidnap the victim and force them to return to Iran for a likely execution, according to court documents.
Mehdiyev was arrested after police discovered him with an assault rifle and 66 rounds of ammunition near the victim's home in Brooklyn, authorities said. He was previously charged with a firearms offense.
"The victim in this case was targeted for exercising the rights to which every American citizen is entitled. The victim publicized the Iranian Government's human rights abuses; discriminatory treatment of women; suppression of democratic participation and expression; and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and execution," Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters.
"Our system of laws protects our citizens in the peaceful exercise of their constitutional and civil rights. The Department of Justice will not tolerate attempts by an authoritarian regime to undermine those protections and the rule of law upon which our democracy is based. We will not tolerate attempts by a foreign power to threaten, silence, or harm Americans," he added.