Canada condemns Iran after alleged kidnapping plot in US indictment

The Canadian government has said it “strongly condemns Iran for its pattern of intimidation and foreign interference” after US authorities indicted four people in an alleged Iranian plot to lure five people – three of them living in Canada – in Iran.

“Journalists and media workers are the cornerstone of any just, strong and vibrant society and should be free to do their jobs without fear. Any violence and intimidation against journalists is completely unacceptable and must be condemned, ”a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said in a statement to CBC News.

“We take this issue very seriously and Canada will continue to work closely with its allies and partners around the world to counter foreign interference and protect journalists.

“Canada strongly condemns Iran for its model [of] intimidation and foreign interference, ”the statement read.

US authorities on Wednesday indicted four Iranians in the alleged kidnapping plot. The four defendants are fugitives and are believed to be in Iran, according to US authorities.

The three individuals allegedly targeted in Canada were not identified in the US indictment and no reference was made to their respective professions.

The indictment says that everyone targeted in the kidnapping plot criticized Iran.

The court document identified a US-based target as an “journalist, author and human rights activist” and described a UK-based target as an “expatriate Iranian journalist and political commentator”.

Masih Alinejad was not identified by name in the indictment, but Reuters and Alinejad herself confirmed that she was the Iranian-American target mentioned in the court document.

“It’s like a horror movie,” Alinejad told CBC News Network Power and politics.

“I myself was shocked. I couldn’t believe the Iranian hostage takers were so close to me. And the FBI came to my house eight months ago and they told me you were under surveillance, ”Alinejad told host David. Cochrane.

WATCH: Suspected target of Iranian kidnapping plot speaks out

Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad joined Power & Politics on Wednesday to discuss the alleged Iranian kidnapping plot targeting her and three people in Canada who have criticized Iran. 9:05

Alinejad said she only learned of the details of the alleged kidnapping plot when the indictment was released yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

“The [Iranian] intelligence service hired a private investigator, send him to take pictures of your private life, pictures of my husband, my children, even my travels with my friends, you know, walking around, where I go . That’s why the FBI sent me to safe houses, ”Alinejad said.

Defendants lied to private investigators, indictment says

The indictment says the defendants – who are described as forming an “Iranian intelligence network” – worked to procure the services of private investigators in Canada under false pretenses to locate and monitor three targets.

“The network falsely represented that the purpose of the surveillance mission was to locate the debtors of a private client located in the Middle East, and retained the services of private investigators who took surveillance photographs and videos of the work and residences of the targets and conducted research on their families., occupations and property, “says the indictment.

CBC News has contacted Public Safety Canada for comment.

Former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Ward Elcock, said he surmised that Canadian authorities would have warned Canadian targets of this network as well.

“It’s not that unusual”

“Office [FBI] and the service [CSIS] would work very closely, over the years, and I’m sure that information would have been passed on to Canadians, to the service, ”said Elcock Power and politics.

WATCH: Former CSIS director on alleged Iranian plot to kidnap US-based journalist

Former CSIS Director Ward Elcock speaks to Power & Politics about the alleged Iranian plot to kidnap a US-based journalist and lure 3 individuals from Canada to Iran. 6:08

“The extreme nature of what they seem to be planning and this one is certainly beyond what I’ve heard before. Having said that, trying to attract people to Iran or other countries, trying to attract their citizens in their country, that’s not all it’s unusual. It doesn’t happen every day, but it does. “

Alinejad called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government to conduct a “proper and serious” investigation to protect journalists.

“To be honest, it’s not just me. Many journalists live under (…) threats on a daily basis. And many activists, many opposition dissidents, many families,” said Alinejad .

Family members in Canada who have criticized the Iranian government after losing their loved ones in the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 have reported to Canadian authorities in the past year that they have been the target of threats and intimidation – and they blame Tehran.

Families of the victims have reported phone calls, online threats and contact with families, CBC News reported.

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