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Eugene Volokh

"Extradition of Organized Crime Leader Charged with a Murder Plot Directed from Iran Targeting a Journalist"

From a Justice Department press release on Wednesday (and see the indictment):

POLAD OMAROV, a/k/a "Araz Aliyev," a/k/a "Polad Qaqa," a/k/a "Haci Qaqa," [has been extradited] from the Czech Republic on murder-for-hire and money laundering charges contained in a Superseding Indictment…. OMAROV was arrested in the Czech Republic on January 4, 2023, at the request of the United States, arrived in the Southern District of New York on February 21, 2024, and will be arraigned on the charges in the Superseding Indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave later today.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: "Polad Omarov is alleged to have brazenly attempted to murder an outspoken critic of Iran's human rights abuses—right here on American soil. The audacious alleged plot to kidnap and murder the victim are indicative of Iran's policies of aggressive suppression and violence against anyone who speaks against them. Today's extradition makes clear our unwavering resolve to charge and bring to justice any individuals attempting to stifle free speech in the U.S., especially at the behest of a malign foreign regime." …

The press release describes the allegations (while noting they are just allegations):

OMAROV, a leader within an Eastern European organized crime group (the "Organization"), worked with other members of the Organization to attempt to murder a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin (the "Victim") on instructions from individuals in Iran. The Victim previously has been the target of plots by the Government of Iran to intimidate, harass, and kidnap the Victim. The Victim is a journalist, author, and human rights activist who has publicized the Government of Iran's human rights abuses and suppression of political expression, including in connection with continuing protests against the regime across Iran. As recently as 2020 and 2021, Iranian intelligence officials and assets plotted to kidnap the Victim from within the United States for rendition to Iran in an effort to silence the Victim's criticism of the regime.

Beginning in approximately mid-July 2022, OMAROV's co-defendant, RAFAT AMIROV, a leader within the Organization residing in Iran, sent targeting information—which AMIROV had received from other individuals in Iran—about the Victim and the Victim's residence to OMAROV. OMAROV, in turn, communicated the targeting information to co-defendant KHALID MEHDIYEV, a leader within the Organization residing in Yonkers, New York, in order to begin conducting surveillance of the Victim and reconnaissance of the Victim's residence and surrounding neighborhood. MEHDIYEV sent photographs and videos of the Victim's residence to OMAROV for further sharing with AMIROV and the plot's orchestrators in Iran.

After MEHDIYEV's initial surveillance of the Victim's residence, AMIROV and OMAROV arranged for the delivery of a $30,000 cash payment to MEHDIYEV in New York City in furtherance of the plot. MEHDIYEV used a portion of this cash payment to buy an AK-47-style assault rifle manufactured in China, along with two magazines for ammunition and at least 66 rounds. MEHDIYEV bragged in electronic communications that he had procured for himself a "war machine."

Between July 20 and 28, 2022, MEHDIYEV repeatedly travelled to the Victim's neighborhood to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, sending reports of the Victim's activities, photographs, and videos to OMAROV for further distribution to AMIROV. On July 24, 2022, after arriving at the Victim's residence, MEHDIYEV reported to OMAROV that MEHDIYEV was "at the crime scene." OMAROV encouraged MEHDIYEV, "You are a man!" MEHDIYEV described to OMAROV that "we blocked it from both sides, it will be a show once she steps out of the house." OMAROV forwarded this report to AMIROV, who responded, "God willing."

MEHDIYEV was unable to carry out the assassination that day and returned on several subsequent days to seek out opportunities to complete the murder mission. AMIROV, OMAROV, and MEHDIYEV schemed different strategies to attempt to draw the Victim out, including by attempting to ask the Victim for flowers from the Victim's garden. On July 28, 2022, MEHDIYEV sent OMAROV a video taken from inside the car MEHDIYEV was driving showing the assault rifle, along with the message that "we are ready." The Victim, after observing suspicious activity outside the residence, left the area, and MEHDIYEV drove away shortly afterwards. After MEHDIYEV drove away from the Victim's residence, he was stopped after a traffic violation, and during a subsequent search of the car, police officers found the assault rifle, 66 rounds of ammunition, approximately $1,100 in cash, and a black ski mask.

* * *

OMAROV, 39, of Georgia, has been charged with: (i) murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; (ii) conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and (iii) conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by Judge McMahon.

AMIROV, 45, of Iran, and MEHDIYEV, 25, of Yonkers, New York, were previously arrested on the charges contained in the Superseding Indictment….

The post "Extradition of Organized Crime Leader Charged with a Murder Plot Directed from Iran Targeting a Journalist" appeared first on

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