Gunman arrested near home of Iranian dissident in New York

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian opposition activist and writer in exile in New York, had previously been identified as the target of an alleged kidnapping plot. A year later, it seems the threats against her are still pouring in.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged a man last week with driving through Brooklyn’s Alinejad neighborhood over the weekend with a loaded assault rifle and dozens of rounds. Alinejad said on Monday that authorities told her the man was looking for her and that home security video caught him hiding outside her front door.

“It’s shocking that someone came to my house with a loaded assault rifle,” Alinejad told The Associated Press in an email. “Last year the FBI foiled a kidnapping plot. Now a killer is sent to deal with me.

The suspect, Khalid Mehdiyev, was jailed without bond and his lawyer declined to comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also wouldn’t discuss the case beyond what is currently a firearms charge.

Last year, US prosecutors charged an Iranian intelligence officer and others with plotting to kidnap Alinejad and bring her back to Tehran. Iranian officials called the accusations “baseless and ridiculous”.

Alinejad, who worked for years as a journalist in Iran and became a US citizen in 2019, has long been a target of its theocracy after fleeing the country following its disputed 2009 presidential election and crackdown. She is known as a prominent figure on overseas Farsi satellite channels critical of Iran.

In the new case, a criminal complaint filed against Mehdiyev does not link him directly to Iran or the kidnapping plot. Instead, he only accuses him of a firearms violation based on a traffic stop by the New York Police Department, but also cites what they say are his conflicting statements about his conduct which involve it in a more serious way.

The complaint states that Mehdiyev was seen hiding near Alinejad’s house last week and, after ordering food delivery to his vehicle, approached the residence and looked out the windows and tried to open the front door. Shortly after, police stopped and arrested him for driving with a suspended license.

A subsequent search of the car found a suitcase containing a rifle “loaded with one cartridge in the chamber and a magazine attached, as well as a separate second magazine, and a total of approximately 66 rounds of ammunition”, say the newspapers, adding: “The serial number of the rifle appears to have been erased.

Initially, Mehdiyev claimed that he was in the neighborhood looking for a room to rent, according to the newspapers, and that he had borrowed the car he was driving and was unaware of tear. He later admitted the gun was his and he was in the area ‘looking for someone’, they add.

At that point he stopped talking and asked for a lawyer.

In her email, Alinejad said her situation shows the need for the US government to take a tougher stance toward Iran.

“What happened this weekend is NOT normal and does not only affect me,” she wrote. “It is a risk for EVERYONE. This is not behavior anyone in the United States should accept as normal.