August 20, 2018 / 10:31 PM / 3 months ago

Two arrested for allegedly spying for Iran in U.S.

FILE PHOTO: Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012, a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Iranian men were indicted on Monday for allegedly spying for Tehran in the United States, including conducting surveillance at a Jewish facility and gathering information on backers of the militant Iranian opposition Mujahideen-e Khalq, the Justice Department said.

Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 38, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, were charged in the indictment with acting on behalf of Iran by conducting the surveillance, the Justice Department said in a statement. Both were arrested on Aug. 9.

The indictment alleges Doostdar traveled from Iran to the United States in July 2017 to collect intelligence about entities considered to be enemies of the Iranian government, including Israeli and Jewish interests as well as people associated with MEK, it said.

The Justice Department said Doostdar conducted surveillance in July 2017 of an ultraorthodox Jewish facility in Chicago, the Rohr Chabad House, including photographing the security features.

Ghorbani attended an MEK rally in New York on Sept. 20, 2017, to protest the current Iranian government, taking photographs of the participants, which he later passed on to Doostdar and was paid about $2,000.

The photos, many with handwritten notes about the participants, were found in Ghorbani’s luggage at a U.S. airport as he was returning to Iran in December 2017, the Justice Department said.

Ghorbani also attended an MEK-affiliated Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington in May, where he again appeared to photograph speakers and attendees, the department said. He later spoke with Doostdar to discuss clandestine methods to deliver the information to Iran, it said.

Iran considers the Mujahideen-e Khalq to be a terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the government in Tehran. The group was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department until 2012.

Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Richard Chang

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