Four Iranians have been charged in New York with planning to kidnap US-Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad. The four would work for Iran’s secret service and also live in that country. They have not yet been arrested, and The New York Times reports based on the suit, which was filed in federal court in the borough of Manhattan.
A fifth suspect has been arrested in California, according to the newspaper. That suspect would not be part of the kidnapping plot but would have supported the plans.
The indictment, made public on Tuesday, does not name the target of the kidnapping. However, Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad has confirmed that this is her. Alinejad has often been critical of government policy in Iran and of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in her reporting.
The journalist works, among other things, as a presenter of the talk show Tablet on the Persian-language branch of news channel Voice of America. She left Iran in 2009.
According to the indictment, the four Iranians hired private investigators under false pretences to track the journalist in her hometown of Brooklyn. Also, relatives and Alinejad’s house were filmed. The kidnapping aims to force the journalist across the American border to go abroad. She would then be forcibly deported to Iran from an intermediate country. While it may sound like it, “this isn’t a far-fetched movie plot,” said William F. Sweeney Jr., the FBI’s chief of staff in New York.
Alinejad told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that he was in a state of shock. She said she has been working with the US FBI for the past eight months after approaching her with photos of her potential kidnappers. In 2020, Alinejad wrote in the American newspaper The Washington Post that the Iranian government had called for her to be kidnapped.
US President Joe Biden last month ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, the US and Iran are working together to restart the nuclear deal signed in 2015, but President Donald Trump withdrew. This deal should curtail Iran’s nuclear power.