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November 6, 2019 1:24 pm

Two Iranian Agents Plead Guilty to Surveilling US Jewish Sites

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Sept. 27, 2017. Photo: Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi / TIMA via Reuters.

Two Iranian agents have pleaded guilty to casing Jewish and Israeli sites in the US as well as spying on members of a dissident group opposed to the ruling theocratic regime in Tehran.

The Washington Post reported that Majid Ghorbani, 60, and Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, were both accused of illegal surveillance. Doostdar had traveled to the US from Iran, while Ghorbani was a legal permanent resident.

According to the Justice Department’s affidavit, prosecutors believe the two men were compiling “target packages” as part of a “neutralization plan.” Both displayed “intelligence tradecraft” in their actions, alerting authorities to their status as Iranian agents.

In particular, Doostdar was found to have taken photographs of several Jewish sites, including Hillel and Chabad centers. In the latter case, Doostdar examined the fence surrounding the building, indicating an interest in the site’s security measures. The Israeli sites surveilled by the men were not revealed in the affidavit.

Ghorbani was arrested in August 2018 and pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of violating US sanctions. Doostdar was arrested two months ago and pleaded guilty on Oct. 8 to two counts — conspiracy and acting as an undeclared agent of the Iranian government.

The two men both cut plea bargains with prosecutors in exchange for pleading guilty to reduced charges. Ghorbani will be sentenced Jan. 15 and Doostdar on Dec. 17.

US Attorney Jessie K. Liu of the District of Columbia said, “The Iranian government thought it could get away with conducting surveillance on individuals in the United States by sending one of its agents here to task a permanent resident with conducting and collecting that surveillance.”

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