The FBI wants to know why a man was near the home of a well-known Iranian journalist and author in New York City while allegedly in possession of an illegal military rifle loaded with 30 rounds.
The agency is investigating whether the suspect, charged with possession of a firearm with no visible serial number, was there as part of a possible conspiracy to neutralize or assassinate Masih Alinejad, two law enforcement sources said.
Iranian intelligence unsuccessfully plotted last year to kidnap Voice of America’s Persian service host, the FBI said.
Alinejad said at the time she believed the government wanted to turn off her voice on social media.
Iran’s Islamist rulers “not only wanted to ensure that I no longer exist physically, they also wanted to destroy my Instagram, Facebook, Telegram and WhatsApp channels,” she said in a video message distributed by VOA.
Iran has denied the 2021 claim, calling it “baseless.”
Sunday afternoon the journalist tweeted Security video showing a large man on their porch trying to open a door. Alinejad said that this is the suspect who was arrested and charged with gun violation and that he came to her home in Brooklyn to kill her.
“My crime is to give voiceless people a voice,” she tweeted.
Khalid Mehdiyev, of Yonkers, New York, was arrested Thursday near the woman’s home by New York City police for allegedly driving with a suspended driver’s license, according to the affidavit filed with a criminal complaint on Friday.
Police initially stopped him for allegedly driving past a stop sign without fully stopping, the document said. He was held without bond.
FBI agents had been monitoring the man since at least the previous day and appeared to corroborate Alinejad’s claim that he was on her porch “trying to open the front door,” FBI Special Agent Derek Kasse wrote in the affidavit.
The court document also alleges that the vehicle Mehdiyev was using was issued with a parking ticket near the journalist’s home on July 23.
On Thursday, after that traffic stop, police said they found a Chinese-made AK 47 clone in a suitcase at the back of the vehicle, where they also discovered 66 rounds of ammunition, most in two magazines, one attached to the was rifle, the FBI claimed.
The affidavit adds that the suitcase containing the gun contained $1,100 in cash. The Subaru Forrester that Mehdiyev drove had Illinois plates and inside plates from two other states, the FBI claims.
In an interview with agents after his arrest, Mehdiyev said he borrowed the vehicle and that the suitcase, gun and ammunition did not belong to him, according to the affidavit.
But he reversed course in the subsequent interview, saying the gun was his and then asking for a lawyer, Kasse wrote.
It is not clear if Mehdiyev kept his lawyer. The Federal Office of Public Defense for the Brooklyn area did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alinejad has criticized the Iranian leadership, particularly regarding its record on women’s and human rights.
“Last year the Islamic Republic tried to kidnap me, now they want to kill me,” Alinejad tweeted on Sunday.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed Mehdiyev’s arrest, but the agency declined to comment further.
Dennis Romero contributed.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/feds-probing-man-military-style-rifle-new-york-home-iranian-journalist-rcna40882 The Fed is investigating a man with a military-style rifle near the home of an Iranian journalist in New York