NEW YORK, New York: Three men--- Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev---have been charged by U.S. prosecutors with attempting to assassinate a prominent critic of Iran's government.
The three were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their role in the thwarted Tehran-backed assassination attempt of the journalist and activist, who is a U.S. citizen and lives in Brooklyn.
The victim was previously the target of a failed Tehran-backed kidnapping plot, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
Although Garland did not name the alleged victim, Mehdiyev was arrested last year in New York for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, a critic of Iran's head-covering laws who has promoted videos of women violating those laws to her millions of social media followers.
In an interview with Reuters, Alinejad said she was invited to FBI headquarters in Manhattan this week, as a dozen agents described to her the details of the plot.
In July, the three men had planned to have Alinejad leave her house and then gun her down, authorities said.
Alinejad said the assassination attempt shows that Iran is terrified of Iranian women demanding their rights, which she often promotes through social media. "They are scared of their own people," she said. "Like millions of others I want freedom for my country. I don't deserve to die for that," she said, as quoted by Reuters.
Mehdiyev, 24, pleaded not guilty to one count of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He is being held at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn pending trial.
Iran's mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that charges followed "a disturbing pattern of Iranian government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate into silence activists for speaking out for the fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world."