Czechs extradite suspect in Iran-backed murder plot to United States

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 4:30 AM

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic on Wednesday extradited a man facing charges in the United States for plotting the murder of a prominent critic of Iran’s government, the Czech Justice Ministry said.

The ministry said Polad Omarov was handed to representatives of U.S. authorities at the Prague Vaclav Havel Airport on Wednesday morning after the suspect had exhausted all options of appeal.

Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic in January 2023.

The ministry said the justice minister had ruled in July last year in favour of extradition, but the action was delayed by the suspect’s complaint with the constitutional court, which was rejected.

Omarov, along with Rafat Amirov and Khalid Mehdiyev, were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their roles in the thwarted Tehran-backed assassination attempt of a critic of Iran’s government who is a U.S. citizen and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The U.S. did not name the alleged victim when it detailed charges in January 2023, but Mehdiyev was arrested in 2022 in New York for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad. A longtime critic of Iran’s head-covering laws has promoted videos of women violating those laws to her millions of social media followers.

U.S. prosecutors in 2021 also charged four Iranians alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist and activist. While the target of that plot was not named, Reuters confirmed it was Alinejad.

U.S. prosecutors have said Omarov was a resident of the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The Czech Justice Ministry said on Wednesday he was a citizen of Georgia.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)