Remarks as Delivered
This morning, a federal court in New York [unsealed] an indictment charging three individuals for their roles in a conspiracy to assassinate a United States citizen.
These charges arise out of an ongoing investigation into the Government of Iran's efforts to assassinate, on U.S. soil, a journalist, author, and human rights activist who is a U.S. Citizen of Iranian origin.
All three defendants are currently in custody.
In July of last year, one of the defendants, Khalid Mehdiyev, was found with an assault rifle, two ammunition magazines, and approximately 66 rounds of ammunition not far from the victim's home in Brooklyn, New York. He was arrested by NYPD officers and charged with a federal firearms offense.
As detailed in the superseding indictment unsealed today, Mehdiyev was not acting alone.
We allege that Mehdiyev and his co-conspirators, Polad Omarov and Rafat Amirov, are members of an Eastern European criminal organization with ties to Iran.
As alleged in the indictment, the Government of Iran has previously targeted dissidents around the world, including the Victim, who oppose the regime's violations of human rights.
And as outlined in this and prior indictments, the Victim in this case has long been a target of the Iranian Government.
In 2021, we charged an Iranian intelligence officer and three Iranian intelligence assets with plotting to kidnap the Victim from within the United States for rendition to Iran and likely execution, in order to silence the Victim.
The Government of Iran has continued to target the Victim since then.
The indictment unsealed today alleges that individuals in Iran tasked defendant Amirov with targeting the victim in a murder-for-hire plot. Amirov, who resided in Iran, is a leader of the Eastern European criminal organization.
We allege that Amirov then directed defendant Omarov, another leader of the organization, who in turn directed defendant Mehdiyev, a member of the organization, to carry out the plot. Omarov resided in Eastern Europe. Mehdiyev was living in the United States.
As alleged in the indictment:
After receiving the directive from Amirov, Omarov sent Mehdiyev photographs of the Victim and the Victim's home, as well as the Victim's address.
Mehdiyev traveled to the victim's residence, where he took photos and video that he sent back to Omarov. Omarov forwarded the photos and video back up the chain to Amirov.
Amirov then arranged a payment of $30,000 to Mehdiyev to buy an assault rifle and carry out the murder. Mehdiyev acquired an AK-47 style assault rifle with an obliterated serial number. He then traveled repeatedly to surveil the Victim and the Victim's household members at the Victim's residence.
During those surveillance missions, Mehdiyev provided reports on the Victim's activities to Omarov, which Omarov shared with Amirov.
On one morning, Omarov sent Mehdiyev a message, asking where he was. Mehdiyev responded: “at the crime scene.” Omarov responded, “Ok, you are a man.”
On the day he was arrested, Mehdiyev sent Omarov a video recording from inside his car, with a caption stating, “we are ready.” In the video, Mehdiyev pulled open the flap of a suitcase displaying the assault rifle.
Omarov forwarded the video to Amirov, who replied that Mehdiyev should “keep the car clean.”
The indictment alleges that the defendants schemed to find ways to lure the Victim out of the residence to carry out the assassination.
But their plot was disrupted.
And all of the defendants will now stand trial in the United States for their alleged crimes.
Mehdiyev has been detained since his arrest last July.
Omarov is currently in the custody of our foreign partners, pending extradition to the United States.
And Amarov, the defendant who lived in Iran, is now in U.S. custody and will be presented later today in court.
I am grateful to the prosecutors, agents, and sand staff of DOJ's National Security Division, the FBI, and the Southern District of New York for their excellent work on this case.
The Victim in this case was targeted for exercising the rights to which every American citizen is entitled. The Victim publicized the Iranian Government's human rights abuses; discriminatory treatment of women; suppression of democratic participation and expression; and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and execution.
This activity posed such a threat to the Government of Iran that the Chief Judge of Iran's Revolutionary Courts warned that anyone who sent videos to the victim criticizing the regime would be sentenced to prison – especially videos contrary to criminal laws mandating that women and girls wear head coverings in public.
In the United States of America, our system of laws protects our citizens in the peaceful exercise of their constitutional and civil rights.
The Department of Justice will not tolerate attempts by an authoritarian regime to undermine those protections and the rule of law upon which our democracy is based.
We will not tolerate attempts by a foreign power to threaten, silence, or harm Americans.
We will stop at nothing to identify, find, and bring to justice those who endanger the safety of the American people.
I will now turn the podium over to the Deputy Attorney General.