A man with a loaded AK-47 rifle has been arrested near the home of Iranian-American journalist and government critic Masih Alinejad in Brooklyn, New York, court documents have shown.
Alinejad, who was the target of an alleged Tehran-backed kidnapping plot last year, said she was “shocked” by the arrest last week, which became public at the weekend.
“I’m not scared [for] my life, but this is scary that it’s happening in front of the eyes of the whole world, especially the US administration,” Alinejad told CNN on Monday.
Alinejad has promoted videos of women violating Iran’s head covering law to her millions of social media followers.
An FBI agent wrote in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday that a man called Khalid Mehdiyev had spent two days last week outside Alinejad’s home, and at one point attempted to open the door.
Police stopped him after he ran a stop sign and found the gun in the back seat, according to the complaint.
The complaint did not identify Alinejad, but she confirmed to the Reuters news agency that the home in question was hers. She said she was now in a safe location.
US prosecutors last year charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, with plotting to kidnap Alinejad, who has contributed to the US government-funded Voice of America Persian language service and reports on human rights issues in Iran.
Tehran has dismissed allegations of government involvement in the kidnapping plot as “ridiculous and baseless”.
Mehdiyev was charged with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. A judge ordered him detained without bail at a Friday afternoon hearing, court records show. Mehdiyev’s lawyer declined to comment.
After his arrest, Mehdiyev initially told law enforcement agents he did not know anything about the assault rifle and that he was in Brooklyn looking for a new apartment, according to the complaint.
But he later told investigators that the AK-47 was his and that he was in Brooklyn “looking for someone”, the complaint read. Mehdiyev then asked for a lawyer and declined to answer further questions.
White House national security spokesperson John Kriby condemned on Monday the “apparent attempt to harm Leading Iranian activist Masih Alinejad”.
The incident comes as Washington and Tehran struggle to find a path to revive the multilateral nuclear deal after nearly a year and a half of indirect talks.
On Monday, the Biden administration announced a new round of sanctions against companies it accused of facilitating the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iran to East Asia.