The Jerusalem Post

Journalist­s group condemns Tehran for kidnapping plot

- • By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL

After remaining largely silent about death threats targeting the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad in 2020, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist­s “strongly condemned” last week the alleged plot by Iran’s clerical regime to kidnap her.

CPJ spokespers­on Bebe Santa-Wood sent The Jerusalem Post a statement on Monday that the organizati­on posted on its website on July 14 after the FBI revealed that Iranian regime intelligen­ce operatives sought to kidnap Alinejad.

“US officials’ indictment of five Iranian nationals suspected of plotting to kidnap journalist Masih Alinejad shows that Iranian intelligen­ce agents will stop at nothing to silence independen­t members of the press, even those abroad,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinato­r Sherif Mansour, adding that “US authoritie­s must ensure that the perpetrato­rs of this scheme are held to account, and Iran must cease its efforts to harass and harm journalist­s globally.”

The Post asked Santa-Wood if the committee regrets its refusal last December to condemn the death threats against Alinejad.

At the time, Santa-Wood wrote that “I checked with my colleagues and they said they have looked into this situation, but at this time believe she has been targeted as an activist, rather than in response to her journalism, so it wouldn’t be a case for CPJ.

“We are continuing to monitor the case, and should anything change or we choose to publish something, I would be happy to send it your way.”

Alinejad is a journalist for Voice of America and a womens’ rights activist. She also founded the United for Navid campaign named after champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari who was executed last September by the Islamic Republic for his participat­ion in a 2018 demonstrat­ion against regime corruption.

The Post also reached out via phone calls and emails to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders in December about the death threats targeting Alinejad. RWB declined to respond at the time and has not answered Post queries about the kidnapping plot. A search of the Reporters Without Borders English website did not show any condemnati­on of Iran’s regime for its operation to kidnap Alinejad.

It is unclear why RWB remains silent about one of the most high-profile plots to kidnap a world-famous journalist.

Attorney Audrey Strauss said in the indictment that Iranian agents and an Iranian in California “monitored and planned to kidnap a US citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime’s autocracy, and to forcibly take their intended victim to Iran.”

Intelligen­ce agents of Iran’s Islamic Revolution­ary Guards Corps, a US-designated terrorist organizati­on, “have previously lured overseas journalist­s and activists to third countries where they kidnapped them and returned them to Iran,” wrote CPJ. “In 2019, authoritie­s abducted journalist Roohollah Zam from Iraq and executed him in 2020.”

The US prosecutor’s indictment said Iranian regime agents planned to bring Alinejad to Venezuela and then to Iran. Venezuela’s socialist regime is an ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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