August 5, 2021

Four Iranian agents plan to kidnap journalist in New York, FBI says

The American justice announced, Tuesday, July 13, to have indicted four “Iranian intelligence agents” for planning the kidnapping of an American reporter of Iranian origin in the United States. Journalist and anti-veiling activist Masih Alinejad claims to be the intended target.

The four men had been looking for “June 2020” to remove “An author and journalist who highlighted the human rights violations committed by the Iranian government”, the US Department of Justice said in a statement. They had planned to“Take their victim by force to Iran, where [son] fate would have been, at best, uncertain “, said prosecutor Audrey Strauss.

Not named in the statement, feminist activist Masih Alinejad, behind the anti-veiling movement in Iran, said she was the target of this kidnapping project. “Thanks to the FBI for foiling the Iranian intelligence plan to kidnap me”, she said on Twitter, filming himself in front of a window from which we can see a police car. The latter is, according to his statements, parked in front of his home for two weeks.

From the United States, where she has now settled, Masih Alinejad criticizes the Iranian regime and its policies, and has received the support of stars such as Meryl Streep, whom she joined on stage at a conference on women’s rights, in 2016. “In the eyes of the Iranian regime, any woman who fights for her fundamental rights is a criminal”, she said in April in a video message shot in front of the Swedish Parliament.

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Eight hundred and sixty journalists “arrested, detained or executed”

The agents had been looking for a way to take the journalist out of the United States, one of them inquiring in particular about speedboats proposing “An autonomous marine evacuation” from New York, and a boat trip between New York and Venezuela, a country that maintains “Friendly relations with Iran”.

This network, discovered by the FBI, also targeted other victims living in particular “In Canada, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates”, against which they had tried to deploy the same means of surveillance, according to prosecutors. “Every person in the United States must be free from all harassment, threats and physical harm from foreign powers”, said prosecutor Mark Lesko.

Iran is considered one of the most repressive countries for journalists, and exercises control over information « implacable », according to the NGO Reporters Without Borders, which placed it in 174e place on 180 of its world press freedom ranking in 2021. “This crackdown on freedom of information is not limited to the interior of the country”, says RSF, who estimates that since 1979 at least 860 journalists have been there “Arrested, detained or executed by the authorities”.

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In January 2016, Tehran exchanged the journalist from Washington Post Jason Rezaian against seven Iranians detained in the United States. Correspondent in Iran, Mr. Rezaian was arrested with his wife on July 22, 2014 when Iran had just accepted the relaunch of negotiations on its nuclear program, the country being suspected by the international community of hiding a military component. His wife was released after two months of detention. Accused of “espionage” for the benefit of the United States, he had spent five hundred and forty-four days in Evin prison, in northern Tehran, where he claimed to have been ill-treated and deprived of sleep. and threatened with beheading.

Iran holds more than a dozen Westerners – also holders of Iranian passports for the most part – in prison or under house arrest, like the Franco-Iranian researcher from Sciences Po Fariba Adelkhah, imprisoned for two years.

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The World with AFP