A man was arrested on Friday after he was found with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle outside the Brooklyn home of an Iranian American journalist who was the target of an international kidnapping plot said to be orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence network last year, according to the journalist, a court document and a person briefed on the matter.
The journalist, Masih Alinejad, 45, has been outspoken in her criticism of the Iranian government, writing two years ago that Iranian officials had unleashed a social media campaign that called for her abduction. In a federal indictment unsealed a year ago in Manhattan, four Iranians were charged with conspiring to kidnap her and forcibly return her to Iran.
In the new case, law enforcement observed a man, Khalid Mehdiyev, behaving suspiciously near Ms. Alinejad’s home over two days last week, according to a criminal complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Friday.
On Thursday morning, the complaint said, Mr. Mehdiyev arrived outside her home in a gray Subaru Forester SUV with an Illinois license plate and remained in the vicinity for several hours. During that time, he ordered food to be delivered to the car, approached the residence, appeared to try to peer inside the windows and attempted to open the front door, the complaint said.
That afternoon, he left and was stopped by New York City police officers after failing to obey a stop sign. He was arrested after the police determined that he was driving without a license and that his license had been suspended, the complaint said.
The police found a suitcase on the rear seat of the car, containing the AK-47 with an obliterated serial number, the complaint said. The rifle was loaded with a round in the chamber and a magazine attached, along with a second, separate magazine and about 66 rounds of ammunition. The rifle had markings showing it was made by Norinco, a Chinese state-owned manufacturer of firearms and military supplies.
The complaint does not identify Ms. Alinejad, an American citizen, but she said in a phone interview on Sunday that she was told by the authorities that the man in question was outside her house. She also said she had home security footage showing him outside her front door.
“I came here in America to be safe,” she said. “First, they were trying to kidnap me. And now I see a man with a loaded gun trying to enter my house. I mean, it’s shocking.”
Ms. Alinejad said she and her family have since moved to a safe location.
Mr. Mehdiyev, who was charged with one count of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, was ordered detained without bond by a federal magistrate judge. Mr. Mehdiyev’s lawyer, Stephanie Carvlin, declined to comment. The U.S. attorney’s office also declined to comment.
The indictment made public in July 2021 in the kidnapping plot said that an Iranian official and a network of intelligence operatives used private investigators to surveil, photograph and video-record Ms. Alinejad and members of her household. The surveillance included a live, high-definition video feed showing her house, the prosecutors said.
Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan at the time, said then that an American citizen living in the United States “must be able to advocate for human rights without being targeted by foreign intelligence operatives.”
Ms. Alinejad, in an interview last year with The New York Times, said she had been shocked when she learned the full details of the alleged Iranian kidnapping plot.
“That shows that they’re not scared of America — they’re scared of me,” she said then. “Otherwise, they would not send anyone here to kidnap me.”
The complaint filed against Mr. Mehdiyev, which was signed by an F.B.I. special agent, said that inside the suitcase, the authorities also found $1,100 in $100 bills, two license plates from other states with different numbers and a New York State learner’s permit listing an address in Yonkers as Mr. Mehdiyev’s residence.
The complaint said that at a Brooklyn police precinct where Mr. Mehdiyev was taken, he waived his Miranda rights and told agents he was in Brooklyn looking for a new apartment because his rent was too high, according to the complaint.
He said he had attempted to open the outer door of the residence in order to knock on the inner door and ask if the occupants would rent him a room, but he changed his mind because he thought someone might be sleeping, the complaint said.
Without being asked about the AK-47 found in the car, he volunteered that he did not know anything about a gun and claimed the suitcase was not his, the complaint said.
Later, Mr. Mehdiyev asked to speak again with the agents. He said that the AK-47 was his and that he was in Brooklyn because he was looking for someone. He then asked for a lawyer and declined to speak further, the complaint said.