(NEW YORK) — A man arrested with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle outside the Brooklyn, New York home of an outspoken Iranian writer is due in federal court Monday amid questions about his intent.
Khalid Mehdiyev was charged with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number after he was seen lurking outside the home of Masih Alinejad, who was targeted last year in a kidnapping plot allegedly organized by Iranian nationals, according to the Department of Justice.
Over two days last week, Mehdiyev was seen in a gray Subaru Forester with an Illinois license plate in front of Alinejad’s home for several hours, according to the criminal complaint. In those hours, the complaint said, Mehdiyev “behaved suspiciously” by approaching the residence, attempting to look inside the windows of the residence and attempting to open the front door.
Police later pulled him over for failing to stop at a stop sign. He was arrested for driving with a suspended license, according to the complaint.
In the rear seat of the Subaru, police found a suitcase containing a Norinco AK-47-style assault rifle loaded with a round in the chamber and a magazine attached, according to the complaint. He also had $1,100 in cash and two other license plates issued from other states besides Illinois.
Mehdiyev initially told police he was in the area of the Brooklyn home because he was looking for a place to rent and was going to knock on the woman’s door asking to rent a room. He also claimed he did not know there was an assault rifle in the suitcase, according to the complaint. He later changed his story and admitted the gun belonged to him and he was “looking for someone.” He then asked for a lawyer and stopped talking, according to the complaint.
The complaint did not identify Alinejad but she posted video of the suspect outside her house on Twitter.
“My crime is giving voice to voiceless people,” she wrote. “The US administration must be tough on terror.”
Last July, a federal court unsealed an indictment charging four Iranian nationals with conspiring to kidnap Alinejad for “mobilizing public opinion in Iran and around the world to bring about changes to the regime’s laws and practices.”
Federal prosecutors said the suspects were directed by the government of Iran to conduct surveillance on Alinejad and lure her to a third country to be captured and brought back to Iran.
“You go to my beautiful country, you will be beaten up because you’re unveiled. … I launched a campaign against compulsory hijab, and that is why, actually, I’m receiving death threats,” Alinejad told ABC News Live last year after the kidnapping plot was revealed. “Of course, it is a scary [thing] that they were going to kidnap me, but that shows that they [are] scared [of] me and millions of other Iranian women, Iranian men, who got united this time loudly sending videos to me saying ‘no’ to Islamic Republic. That’s why they sent someone here in New York to kidnap me.”
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