Journalist at the center of Iran kidnapping plot only learned details overnight

Journalist at the center of Iran kidnapping plot only learned details overnight
Journalist at the center of Iran kidnapping plot only learned details overnight

The Iranian-American journalist at the center of an international kidnapping plot says she only learned the 'shocking' extent of the scheme last night when four men were charged and that she worked with the FBI to track down those responsible. 

Masih Alinejad, a journalist and human rights activist who has been a sharp critic of Iran, told CNN on Wednesday she had only discovered the details of the elaborate plan overnight despite the FBI telling her eight months ago she wasn't safe. 

The 44-year-old, who lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and son, said she spent three months living in different safe houses after the FBI told her she was being tracked by a US private investigator hired by Iranian intelligence operatives.

Prosecutors say the Iranians had a live feed of her home.

While in the safe houses, Alinejad said the FBI asked her to keep going live on Instagram to her five million followers without providing a location to see if the Iranian operatives could track her down. 

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'The FBI were trying to work out whether they would follow me and find me new place. And they did,' Alinejad said.  

Alinejad did not elaborate on who tracked her down in the safe house and the FBI have not commented.   

Masih Alinejad, a journalist and human rights activist who has been a sharp critic of Iran, told CNN on Wednesday she had only discovered the details of the elaborate plan overnight despite the FBI telling her eight months ago she wasn't safe

Masih Alinejad, a journalist and human rights activist who has been a sharp critic of Iran, told CNN on Wednesday she had only discovered the details of the elaborate plan overnight despite the FBI telling her eight months ago she wasn't safe

'It's unbelievable that in New York, the Islamic Republic were able to threaten and follow an Iranian-American citizen. Here, in the land of the United States of America. I was shocked.'

She said the revelation that an American investigator had been hired to track her gave her 'goosebumps'.

'They hired an American investigator. The guy didn't know anything. When I saw the photos I got goosebumps. I was shocked they were following me, filming me. They were following my friends,' the Voice of America producer said.  

When the FBI first approached her last year, Alinejad recalled telling them that she was used to receiving threats given she has been so outspoken about the Iranian government.

'I was like, you must be kidding me because I receive daily death threats, what's new? I'm here in America, they cannot do anything,' she said. 

Alinejad said she only took them seriously after seeing the surveillance images and realizing how close they had gotten to her. 

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She also slammed the Biden administration and urged them to take 'strong action' over the kidnapping plot. 

'When Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi American journalist, got brutally murdered the whole world made statements of condemnation. I need the same because another regime in the Middle East tried to kidnap me.  

'The FBI did a great job but to be honest I'm a little bit disappointed with Biden's administration because I'm still waiting for them to take strong action.'  

Mahmoud Khazein - one of four Iranians charged in the kidnap plot

Omid Noori, another of the four plotters

Mahmoud Khazein (left) and Omid Noori (right) are among four Iranians charged in the kidnap plot

Kiya Sadeghi is accused of being an asset working for the Iranian spy chief

Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani is described in charging documents as the ringleader in the plot

Kiya Sadeghi (left) is accused of being an asset working for the Iranian spy chief, Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani (right)

Federal prosecutors revealed on Tuesday that they had charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, over the plot to kidnap Alinejad.

The four spies were named in court documents as Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori.

The four defendants all live in Iran, the prosecutors said, identifying one of them, Farahani, as an Iranian intelligence official and the three others as 'Iranian intelligence assets.' 

A fifth defendant, Niloufar Bahadorifar, accused of supporting the plot financially but not participating in the kidnapping conspiracy, was arrested in California. 

The New York-based journalist was not named by authorities as the victim. 

The conspirators had also plotted to kidnap a journalist in the UK and three other in Canada who had been critical of Iran, according to the indictment. 

Iran on Wednesday rejected the US claim of Tehran's involvement in the kidnapping plot as 'ridiculous and baseless', according to Iranian state TV. 

'This new claim by the U.S. government ... is so baseless and ridiculous that it is not really worth answering,' said Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh. 

The US indictment says the men hired private investigators to monitor Alinejad and her family in New York by misrepresenting who they were.

They had claimed that she was a missing person from Dubai who had fled the country to avoid paying a debt, prosecutors said.   

Details of the elaborate plot included in the

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