USA prosecutors announced charges Monday against two men arrested August 9 and accused of acting as agents of the government of Iran, covertly monitoring a Jewish center in Chicago and American members of an Iranian opposition group in exile in behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Doostdar and Ghorbani were both charged with acting as unregistered agents of the Iranian government and providing the Iran government with services in violation of sanctions.
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.
"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.
Doostdar, a dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, allegedly photographed security features of the Rohr Chabad House, a Jewish facility located in Chicago, as part of a broader effort to gather information on individuals considered to be enemies the Iranian government.
Last September, Ghorbani allegedly conducted surveillance at a rally in New York City led by Mojahedin-e Khalq, of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a political-militant organization that advocates for the overthrow of the current regime in Iran, the complaint said.
The indictment did not explain why he took the pictures.
Two months later Ghorbani, 59, flew to NY for one day where he attended an MEK rally and took photographs of people in attendance.
The photos, many with handwritten notes about the participants, were found in Ghorbani's luggage at a United States airport as he was returning to Iran in December 2017, the Justice Department said. In conversations between them recorded by the FBI, Ghorbani mentioned trying to "penetrate" the group, while Doostdar spoke of being directed by others to collect the information.
US authorities accused the men of continuing to work together this year, with Ghorbani allegedly traveling to Iran in about March after telling Doostdar he was going there to conduct an "in-person briefing", and discussing clandestine methods to provide to Iran photographs Ghorbani took of people who attended an MEK-affiliated Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington, D.C., on May 4.