Two Iranian-Americans have been charged by the Trump administration with spying on Jewish and Israeli-associated facilities in California on behalf of the hardline Iranian regime, the Department of Justice announced late Monday.
The charges, first made public on Monday, are among the first by the Trump administration charging Iranian spies of running operations on the Jewish and American communities on American soil.
"The National Security Division is committed to protecting the United States from individuals within our country who unlawfully act on behalf of hostile foreign nations," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
The two Iranian individuals—identified as Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, an Iranian citizen and resident of California—"with allegedly acting on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States, and collecting identifying information about American citizens and U.S. nationals who are members of the group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)," an Iranian opposition group that promotes regime change in the Islamic Republic.
"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," Demers said. "With their arrest and these charges, we are seeking to hold the defendants accountable."
U.S. officials working on the case said the Trump administration will not permit Iranian regime-backed agents to operate with impunity on American soil.
"This indictment demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Justice to hold accountable agents of foreign governments who act illegally within the United States, especially where those agents are conducting surveillance of individuals and Constitutionally-protected activities in this country," Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement.
The Iranian individuals are charged with "knowingly acting as agents of the government of Iran without prior notification to the Attorney General, providing services to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions, and conspiracy," according to the Justice Department. "Both defendants were arrested on Aug. 9, pursuant to criminal complaints issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia."
"In or about July 2017, Doostdar traveled to the United States from Iran in order to collect intelligence information about entities and individuals considered by the government of Iran to be enemies of that regime, including Israeli and Jewish interests, and individuals associated with the MEK, a group that advocates the overthrow of the current Iranian government," according to the indictment.
"On or about July 21, 2017, Doostdar is alleged to have conducted surveillance of the Rohr Chabad House, a Jewish institution located in Chicago, including photographing the security features surrounding the facility," the Justice Department noted.