The US has sanctioned four Iranian intelligence officials over an alleged plot to kidnap exiled journalist Masih Alinejad (pictured).
The Treasury said in a Friday statement that Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani led the plan to seize Alinejad, a prominent critic of the Iranian regime, in New York and take her via speedboat to Venezuela before returning the journalist to Iran.
The other intelligence operatives were named as Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating 4 Iranian intelligence operatives who targeted a U.S. citizen in the U.S. & Iranian dissidents in other countries as part of a wide-ranging campaign to silence critics of the Iranian govt. https://t.co/srx6yWwcAt
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) September 3, 2021
Andrea Gacki, the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said, “The Iranian government’s kidnapping plot is another example of its continued attempt to silence critical voices, wherever they may be. Targeting dissidents abroad demonstrates that the government’s repression extends far beyond Iran’s borders.”
In October 2019, Iranian security forces lured journalist Ruhollah Zam from France either to Iraq or to the Islamic Republic, where he was seized. He was executed in December 2020.
In July, an indictment in a US federal court in Manhattan said the Farahani-led group schemed to abduct three Iranians in Canada and another in the UK as well as kidnapping Alinejad.
Alinejad, who now works for the Voice of America’s Persian service, tweeted on Friday:
Today, U.S. sanctions 4 agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence plotting to kidnap me. This is a small welcome step. In my meetings with Democrats & Republicans, I said the US must stop negotiating with this regime till political prisoners including dual nationals are released pic.twitter.com/xgWXNiIqOH
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 3, 2021
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, insisted, “This new claim by the US Government…is so baseless and ridiculous that it is not really worth answering….This is not the first time that the United States has undertaken such Hollywood scenarios.”