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Iranian Agents Plead Guilty To Collecting Info On Opposition Group In The US

Two Iranians have pleaded guilty of acting as illegal agents of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the United States, the US Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia announced in a press release on Tuesday November 5.

Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, have pleaded guilty of "conducting surveillance of and collecting identifying information about American citizens and U.S. nationals who are members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)," announced the U.S. Attorney's office, which is part of the United States Department of Justice.

According to the press release, Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia has said: “These individuals admitted to breaking the law and acting on behalf of the government of Iran by collecting information about the activities of Iranian dissidents in our country. The FBI’s actions in this case illustrate how seriously we take our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”

Liu added that the case highlights the Department of Justice's efforts to pursue those who threaten national security and target U.S. persons on behalf of foreign governments.

Meanwhile, the Executive Assistant Director Jay Tabb of the FBI's National Security Branch said, "The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate illegal activity that threatens our fellow citizens and their constitutionally protected rights," adding that "the FBI will not tolerate any such activity conducted by the government of Iran or its agents.”

According to the office of the US Attorney in the District of Columbia, Doostdar admitted to conveying directions for Ghorbani on behalf of the Iranian government. Subsequently, Ghorbani photographed a MeK rally attendants, including the organization's leaders, in New York City in September 2017. Doostdar collected the photographs during his next trip to the United States in December 2017.

The photos depicted MeK leaders with added handwritten information to identify each individual in the pictures.

Meanwhile, the two admitted that during a meeting, Ghorbani offered to provide "an in-person briefing" on the rally attendees during his next trip to Iran. "Doostdar paid Ghorbani $2,000 for his work, which Doostdar admitted had been provided by Doostdar’s Government of Iran handler," said the press release.

Ghorbani also photographed another MeK rally in Washington in May 2018 where he collected information on participants critical of the Iranian regime.

Doostdar is scheduled to be sentenced on December 17, 2019, and Ghorbani is scheduled to be tried on January 15, 2020.

According to the press release by the U.S. Department of Justice, "the maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years; the maximum penalty for acting as an agent of a foreign power is 10 years; and the maximum penalty for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act is 20 years. Each defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors."

The news of the two men's arrest first broke out in August. However, Tehran has still not reacted to the Department of Justice's statement.