ERBIL (KURDISTAN 24) – The US on Monday announced it had arrested and indicted two Iranian men on spying charges, including the surveillance of a Jewish facility and members of an Iranian militant opposition group.
In a press statement released by the US Department of Justice, Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 38, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, are accused of acting “on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Both men were allegedly “conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States, and collecting identifying information about American citizens and US nationals who are members of the group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).” They were arrested on Aug. 9.
The arrests come as tensions between Tehran and Washington ramp up amid sanctions and calls by American officials to apply more pressure on the Iranian regime to “change its behavior” since the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year.
“This alleged activity demonstrates a continued interest in targeting the United States, as well as potential opposition groups located in the United States,” said Acting Executive Assistant Director McGarrity. “The FBI will continue to identify and disrupt those individuals who seek to engage in unlawful activity, on behalf of Iran, on US soil.”
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo established an “Iran Action Group” to coordinate “all aspects of the State Department’s Iran- activity.” The head of the new unit, Brian Hook, at the time, said the Trump administration was taking a more “comprehensive approach” than the previous government toward Iran “because the scope of Iranian activity is so wide-ranging.”
Doostdar and Ghorbani were charged with acting as unregistered agents of the Iranian government, conducting surveillance and providing Tehran with services in violation of sanctions. Both suspects were found with photographs and handwritten notes of events they were tasked to monitor.
Ghorbani attended a MEK-affiliated Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington in May, where he appeared to photograph speakers and attendees, the department said. Iran considers the MEK to be a terrorist group looking to overthrow the Iranian regime. The group was listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department until 2012.
Tehran has yet to respond publicly to the arrests.
Editing by John J. Catherine