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Man being investigated about possibly planning to harm Iranian journalist is indicted on firearm possession charge

<i>CNN</i><br/>The man being investigated for possibly planning to harm Masih Alinejad
The man being investigated for possibly planning to harm Masih Alinejad

By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN

The man being investigated for possibly planning to harm an Iranian journalist and activist was indicted on a firearms charge, according to a document unsealed Thursday.

Khalid Mehdiyev was charged by a federal grand jury with possessing a firearm with an “obliterated” serial number, according to the indictment. Mehdiyev was driving away late last month from the neighborhood where Masih Alinejad lives when he failed to stop at a stop sign. A criminal complaint says New York police officers found him driving without a license since his had been suspended.

Police later found in the back seat of his vehicle a suitcase containing a “Norinco AK-47-style assault rifle … loaded with a round in the chamber and a magazine attached, along with a separate second magazine, and a total of approximately 66 rounds of ammunition,” the complaint says.

Mehdiyev drove a gray Subaru Forester SUV and stayed in the area for several hours where he “behaved suspiciously,” the complaint states. On one occasion, Mehdiyev got in and out of his car several times, ordered food delivery to his car, and approached a home in the neighborhood — where Alinejad resides — peering inside the windows and trying to open the front door, the complaint said, and CNN previously reported.

It’s unclear if authorities are still investigating whether he was planning to harm the journalist.

CNN is trying to reach his attorney, Stephanie Marie Carvlin, who previously declined to comment when contacted by CNN.

Last year, Alinejad was targeted in an alleged kidnapping plot by Iranian nationals after she spoke out against the Islamic republic. The plot was organized by an Iranian intelligence official, an indictment alleged, but Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any involvement, calling the accusation “baseless and ridiculous,” according to semiofficial Iranian state media.

In a CNN interview, she said the Iranian government had been targeting her and her family for her efforts to give voice to those being oppressed in the country where she was born.

Alinejad, a dissident who frequently shares photos and videos of what she calls “voiceless” Iranian women through her social media accounts, says Iranian officials have warned her about her activism.

Mehdiyev, according to a criminal complaint released after he was arrested, told authorities his rent in Yonkers was too high, and he was visiting Brooklyn to find an apartment. The cash was for a hotel room, and he approached the home in the Brooklyn neighborhood because he intended to ask if the owners might rent him a room, before changing his mind, the complaint says he told investigators. The Subaru was borrowed, and he did not know the suitcase — which he said was not his — contained a rifle, he initially told investigators, according to the complaint.

The suspect later told agents “the AK-47 was his, and that he had been in Brooklyn because he was looking for someone,” before invoking his right to counsel, the complaint says.

Mehdiyev’s previous court date set for August 12 has been canceled, and no future date has been set yet, according to a spokesperson for the Southern District of New York.

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CNN’s Josh Campbell and Eliott McLaughlin contributed to this story.

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