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Two Iranians found guilty of spying on dissidents in US

November 7, 2019 at 1:36 pm

Protesters wave flags as they gather outside the Iranian Embassy on 2 January 2018 [BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images]

Two men pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of spying on Iranian dissidents in the US on behalf of the Iranian government.

Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, an Iranian-US dual citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, an Iranian resident of California, attempted to infiltrate the group of Iranian dissidents in exile named the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) in New York and Washington DC in 2017 and 2018, according to the Justice Department.

The case involved a ring of recruitment and espionage, in which Doostdar travelled to the US from Iran three times in order to recruit Ghorbani and provide him with instructions and thousands of dollars to spy for the Iranian government.

READ: Iran uncovers ‘CIA spy ring’ and sentences some members to death

Doostdar had reportedly also conducted surveillance activities on Jewish institutions and synagogues in Chicago during a visit to the city in 2017.

Ghorbani, as instructed, attended MEK events and rallies, taking pictures of the figures and participants who attended and collecting information for Doostdar. The latter pleaded guilty to charges of acting as an unofficial and unregistered agent of the Iranian government, and faces up to fifteen years in prison.

Meanwhile, Ghorbani pleaded guilty to violating US laws regarding the sanctions on Iran and its government, making him liable to be jailed for up to twenty years.

READ: US sanctions nine people, one entity tied to Iran’s top leader

The US Attorney for Washington, Jessie Lui, stated: “The Iranian government thought it could get away with conducting surveillance on individuals in the United States by sending one of its agents here to task a permanent resident with conducting and collecting that surveillance.

This case highlights our efforts to pursue those who threaten national security and disrupt foreign governments that target US persons.”

MEK, the group of exiled dissidents that the pair were spying on and which aims to overthrow the current Iranian government, is designated as a terrorist group by Iran. It was also designated in the US until it was removed from the terrorist blacklist in 2012.