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Two Iranians were sentenced on Wednesday for spying on the United States.
Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, have been sentenced to prison terms of 38 months and 30 months, respectively, after pleading guilty late last year to charges relating to their conduct conducting surveillance of and collecting identifying information about American citizens and U.S. nationals who are members of the group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
“This case illustrates Iran’s targeting of Americans in the United States in order to silence those who oppose the Iranian regime or otherwise further its goals,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement.
“The defendants, working for Iran, gathered information on Americans that could then be used by the Iranian intelligence services to intimidate or harm them or their families,” he continued. “These prosecutions should serve as a reminder to anyone here working covertly for Iran that American law enforcement will pursue you to protect this country, its citizens and the First Amendment principles upon which it was founded.”
Jessie Liu, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, said “the sentences in this case illustrate the high cost to those who act as agents of the Iranian government in the United States or provide services that benefit the government of Iran, especially when those activities target the free speech and peaceful assembly rights of people in the United States. We will continue to thwart efforts by foreign governments to endanger our national security and to stifle the freedoms that all Americans cherish.”
Doostdar pleaded guilty in October to collecting intelligence on the Rohr Chabad House at the University of Chicago, where they allegedly photographed the building’s security features.
He came to the United States around July 2017 to obtain information on those Iran considers adversaries, such as Israeli and Jewish places, in addition to people associated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, a group that advocates the overthrow of the current Iranian government, according to the indictment.
Doostdar and Ghorbani, who pleaded guilty in November, met in California around December 2017, where Doostdar paid Ghorbani approximately $2,000 for 28 photographs of the MEK rally in New York three months earlier. Some of the photographs contained notes identifying the participants.
The indictment also alleged that Ghorbani traveled to Iran around March 2018, after telling Doostdar he would be going to the Islamic republic to conduct an “in-person briefing.”
Ghorbani attended the MEK-affiliated 2018 Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington on May 5. During the conference, Ghorbani apparently photographed certain attendees and speakers.
On May 14 of that year, Doostdar discussed with Ghorbani undercover practices the latter should use in providing Iran with information.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Los Angeles Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.