US charges three men in Iran-backed assassination attempt of prominent critic News
© WikiMedia (Gregory Varnum)
US charges three men in Iran-backed assassination attempt of prominent critic

In a sealed indictment, the US Attorney General Friday charged three men in connection with an alleged assassination attempt of a well-known critic of Iran’s government on US soil.

Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev face three federal charges: murder for hire, conspiracy to commit murder for hire and money laundering conspiracy. The charges carry a maximum combined sentence of 40 years imprisonment. Mehdiyev faces an additional five years for an unlawful possession of a defaced firearm charge. Court documents do not name the intended victim.

Amirov and Omarov allegedly recruited Mehdiyev, a US citizen, in July 2022.  The group called themselves the “Thieves-in-Law” and have suspected ties to Iran. The prosecution contends that Amirov directed Mehdiyev to surveil the intended victim’s New York City home and formulate a way to lure them out. After completing his surveillance, Mehdiyev received $30,000 as an advanced payment and to purchase an assault rifle. Mehdiyev attempted several times to lure the victim to the door without success. Upon witnessing what they thought was suspicious activity, the victim left their home. Police later stopped Mehdiyev for a traffic violation. Officers found the assault rife with destroyed serial number and arrested Mehdiyev on federal firearm charges.

Amirov and Omarov are both currently in detention. Amirov was arrest in New York in January, and the Czech Republic detained Omarov. Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division commended the arrests. He said, “foreign actors who plot violence on our soil believing they are out of our reach, know that we will pursue you, wherever you may be, until we deliver justice.”

The alleged assassination plot is not the first attempt by Iran to harm the unidentified victim. Iranian officials allegedly attempted to bribe the victim’s family members living in Iran to lure them to a third country to be kidnapped and deport to Iran for execution. Another 2021 failed kidnapping featured several individuals procuring “military-style” speedboats. They allegedly intended to carry the victim to Venezuela for deportation to Iran. The victim has been outspoken on recent protests and killings in Iran.