WASHINGTON – Two Iranian men were indicted on Monday for allegedly spying for Tehran in the United States, including conducting surveillance at a Jewish facility and gathering information on backers of the Iranian opposition group known as Mujahideen-e Khalq, or MEK, the Justice Department said.
Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 38, a dual US-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, were charged in the indictment with acting on behalf of Iran by conducting the surveillance, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Both were arrested on August 9.
The indictment alleges Doostdar traveled from Iran to the United States in July 2017 to collect intelligence about entities considered to be enemies of the Iranian government, including Israeli and Jewish interests as well as people associated with MEK, it said.
The Iranian agents were tasked with collecting intelligence on “entities and individuals considered by the government of Iran to be enemies of that regime, including Israeli and Jewish interests,” according to the Justice Department.
“Doostdar and Ghorbani are alleged to have acted on behalf of Iran, including by conducting surveillance of political opponents and engaging in other activities that could put Americans at risk,” said Assistant Attorney-General for National Security John Demers.
“With their arrest and these charges, we are seeking to hold the defendants accountable.”
Jewish American organizations applauded the arrests.
“We commend and thank the FBI for disrupting the alleged intelligence gathering efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation with a long record of involvement in, and support for, terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli institutions,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“Cooperation among law enforcement and the people and communities they serve is essential to safeguarding us from extremism and terrorism.”
The Justice Department said Doostdar conducted surveillance in July 2017 of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish facility in Chicago, the Rohr Chabad House, including photographing its security features.
Ghorbani attended an MEK rally in New York on September 20, 2017, to protest the current Iranian government, taking photographs of the participants, which he later passed on to Doostdar, who paid him about $2,000.
The photos, many with handwritten notes about the participants, were found in Ghorbani’s luggage at a US airport as he was returning to Iran in December 2017, the Justice Department said.
In May, Ghorbani also attended an MEK-affiliated Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington, where he again appeared to photograph speakers and attendees, the department said. He later spoke with Doostdar to discuss clandestine methods of delivering the information to Iran, it said.
Iran considers the Mujahideen-e Khalq to be a terrorist group that seeks to overthrow the government in Tehran.
The group had been listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department until 2012.
Other alleged agents of Iran were recently arrested in Europe, accused of plotting a terrorist attack in the heart of Paris targeting an MEK rally held there earlier this summer.
Reuters contributed to this report.