Two Men Accused of Spying for Iranian Regime on Potential Targets in US

Patrick Goodenough | August 21, 2018 | 2:55am EDT
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A Free Iran rally near U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 20, 2017, which was addressed by former Sen. Joe Lieberman, featured oversized caricature puppets of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Photo: OIAC)

( – An Iranian man charged in D.C. with conspiracy and other offenses was so incensed by a U.S. senator who participated in a New York rally against the Tehran regime last fall that he suggested to his alleged co-conspirator that the “motherf—er” needs to be shot, according to documents unsealed on Monday.

Majid Ghorbani and Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar stand accused of having collected data for the regime relating to Jewish organizations in Chicago and U.S.-based members of the exiled Iranian opposition group, Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK).

They did so, according to an FBI special agent’s affidavit, “for the purpose of enabling the government of Iran to target these groups.”

Targeting of that nature by foreign intelligence services, the agent said, “could enable a neutralization plan, which may include apprehension, recruitment, cyber exploitation, or capture/kill operations.”

The two men were arrested on August 9, and Ghorbani is due to appear for a detention hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

Indictments returned on Monday charge the two with acting as agents of Iran, conspiracy, and violating U.S. sanctions. The charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years, five years, and 20 years respectively.

Ghorbani, a 59-year-old Iranian citizen who entered the U.S. in 1995 and became legal permanent resident in 2015, participated in rallies by opponents of the regime, observing and taking photographs of attendees, the documents allege.

Doostdar, 38, who was born in the U.S. but left at the age of two, flew into the U.S. from Iran three times between July 2017 and last month, and met up with Ghorbani in Costa Mesa, Calif.

The U.S.-Iranian dual national brought cash with him and, according to the affidavit, “engage[d] in intelligence tradecraft and counter-surveillance measures that I assess are consistent with having received training from an Iranian intelligence service.”

A Department of Justice statement says Doostdar traveled to the U.S. “to collect intelligence information about entities and individuals considered by the government of Iran to be enemies of that regime, including Israeli and Jewish interests, and individuals associated with the MEK, a group that advocates the overthrow of the current Iranian government.”

On one visit, last year, he was observed taking photos of two Jewish institutions near the University of Chicago, in one case photographing “the front and back of the Rohr Chabad Center, as well as the wrought iron fence surrounding the building.”

‘One of those motherf—ing Jews’

Among the information Doostdar collected and sought to take back to Iran, the documents say, were photographs taken by Ghorbani at a “Free Iran” event near U.N. headquarters last September, where he had “conducted physical surveillance and photographed individuals participating in the rally.”

During a subsequent conversation in a car in California – monitored by “court-authorized electronic surveillance,” according to the affidavit – Ghorbani told Doostdar about the event, and referred to a senator who had given a speech.

He charged that the senator is “working for Mossad now” and also getting paid for working “for these people” – possibly a reference to the anti-Iran regime activists who organized the rally.

“He is one of those motherf—ing Jews … I swear, motherf—er needs one-one shot,” the document quotes Ghorbani as saying.

“Doostdar laughed throughout this exchange.”

The senator was not identified, but former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman addressed the “Free Iran” rally in New York on September 21, organized to protest the presence at the U.N. of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Other speakers included John Bolton – now White House National Security Advisor – and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights in Washington on Saturday, May 5, 2018. (Photo: OIAC)

In March this year, the FBI searched Ghorbani’s California apartment, and found notes in Farsi about MEK members, the documents say.

Agents also found, inside a locked suitcase in the apartment, “a manila envelope containing information, including biographical data and phone numbers, about several U.S. Congressman who have overt ties to the MEK.”

Two weeks later, Ghorbani paid a visit to Iran. He returned in April, than in May traveled to Washington to attend the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights and Democracy, where he was seen photographing attendees.

Speakers at the event, hosted by the pro-MEK Organization of Iranian American Communities, included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who used the opportunity to predict that President Trump would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. (He did, three days later.)

Giuliani, like Lieberman, Bolton and Engel, has long supported the MEK and its National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) affiliate. NCRI leader Mayram Rajavi addressed the convention in DC by video.

Police in Europe are investigating an alleged Iranian regime plot to bomb an NCRI rally in Paris in June, whose 25,000 attendees included several prominent Americans, among them Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

An Iranian diplomat based in Vienna is one of four people in custody in three European countries in connection with that investigation.

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