Third suspect in plot to kill Iranian American author on US soil extradited to face charges

Feb 21, 2024, 1:32 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A suspect charged in a plot to kill an Iranian American author and activist has been extradited from the Czech Republic to face charges, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Polad Omarov was arrested by Czech officials in January 2023, when charges were announced against him and two other men in the alleged plot to kill Masih Alinejad, an Iranian opposition activist who has spoken out against human rights abuses there. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Omarov’s extradition Wednesday, nearly 13 months after the indictment in the case was unsealed.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate attempts by an authoritarian regime to undermine the rights to which every American citizen is entitled,” Garland said in the statement.

Phone calls to an attorney representing Omarov, who had spent the last year fighting extradition, rang unanswered. An email message seeking comment was also not immediately returned.

The other two men, Rafat Amirov of Iran and Khalid Mahdiyev of Yonkers, New York, were also charged with money laundering and murder-for-hire in federal court in New York. Both men pleaded not guilty last year.

Charges against a fourth man, Zialat Mamedov, were added in a revised indictment in May 2023. Justice Department officials said at the time that Mamedov was also in the custody of Czech authorities.

Alinejad, an Iranian opposition activist, journalist and writer in exile in New York City, confirmed to The Associated Press in 2023 that she was the intended target. She had fled Iran following the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

She is a prominent figure on Farsi-language satellite channels abroad that critically view Iran, and she has worked as a contractor for U.S.-funded Voice of America’s Farsi-language network since 2015. She became a U.S. citizen in October 2019.

In a message posted to X Wednesday, Alinejad said she was joyful and she looked forward to testifying against the men.

“I want to thank the US law enforcement agencies for their vigilance. My adopted country has once again saved me from the murderous regime of my birth country Iran,” she wrote.

The indictment alleges that the men were all part of an Eastern European criminal organization that has ties to Iran. Court documents allege that Amirov was tasked with arranging the murder, and contacted Omarov to help. The two men allegedly contacted the New York-based Mehdiyev, giving him $30,000 in cash.

Mehdiyev was arrested in 2022 after he was found driving around Alinejad’s Brooklyn neighborhood with a loaded “AK-47-style” rifle and dozens of rounds of ammunition.

National News

Associated Press

Douglas DC-4 plane crashes into river outside Fairbanks, Alaska; not clear how many people on board

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A Douglas DC-4 airplane crashed into the Tanana River near Fairbanks on Tuesday, Alaska State Troopers said. It was not immediately known how many people were on board. The website said standard passenger seating for a DC-4 was 44 during its heyday, but most have been converted to freighters. Troopers […]

22 minutes ago

Associated Press

College students, inmates and a nun: A unique book club meets at one of the nation’s largest jails

CHICAGO (AP) — For college senior Nana Ampofo, an unconventional book club inside one of the nation’s largest jails has transformed her career ambitions. Each week, the 22-year-old drives a van of her DePaul University peers to Cook County Jail to discuss books with inmates and recently, the well-known activist Sister Helen Prejean. Ampofo comes […]

28 minutes ago

Associated Press

Someone fishing with a magnet dredged up new evidence in Georgia couple’s killing, officials say

McRAE-HELENA, Ga. (AP) — Someone using a magnet to fish for metal objects in a Georgia creek pulled up a rifle as well as some lost belongings of a couple found slain in the same area more than nine years ago. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says driver’s licenses, credit cards and other items dragged […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Supreme Court to weigh whether doctors can provide emergency abortions in states with bans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years after overturning the constitutional right to abortion, the Supreme Court will consider Wednesday how far state bans can extend to women in medical emergencies. The justices are weighing a case from Idaho, where a strict abortion ban went into effect shortly after the high court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Transgender Louisianans lost their ally in the governor’s seat. Now they’re girding for a fight

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As transgender people in Louisiana watched surrounding states in the deeply conservative South implement a slew of laws targeting nearly every facet of their lives in recent years, they counted on their ally in the governor’s office to keep their home a relative oasis. Former Gov. John Bel Edwards, the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Pentagon set to send $1 billion in new military aid to Ukraine once bill clears Senate and Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is poised to send $1 billion in new military aid to Ukraine, U.S. officials said Tuesday as the Senate moved ahead on long-awaited legislation to fund the weapons Kyiv desperately needs to stall gains being made by Russian forces in the war. The decision comes after months of frustration, as […]

4 hours ago

Third suspect in plot to kill Iranian American author on US soil extradited to face charges