LOS ANGELES A naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran who was found in Iraq was indicted on charges of providing support to a terrorist organization that seeks to overthrow the current Iranian regime, federal prosecutors said.
Zeinab Taleb-Jedi, 51, was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury in New York on one count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. She faces up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted.
Taleb-Jedi went to Iraq in 1999 to attend a training camp run by the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said in a statement.
"During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Taleb-Jedi was discovered by coalition forces in an MEK training camp called Ashraf Base," about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, the statement said.
U.S. forces took control of the camp and sent many members back to Iran on condition that they defect from MEK, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. He said Taleb-Jedi was in Iraq from August 1999 until this past March, when she agreed to return to the United States.
"An investigation reveals that she played an active role at the camp," Mrozek said.
An arraignment date has not been set, Mrozek said. She was assigned a federal public defender in New York and was released on bond.
Taleb-Jedi was being prosecuted in New York because her plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 31 upon her return from Iraq. The case was being handled by Los Angeles-based prosecutors who have been involved in MEK-related investigations since the 1990s.
Taleb-Jedi immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1978 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1996, the government said. Her aliases include Nayer Taleb-Jedi or Nire Taleb-Jedi, according to the two-page indictment.
The U.S. attorney’s office did not release any information on the woman’s occupation.
The group was founded in the 1960s and moved to Iraq in the early 1980s to base its activities against Iran’s government. The group had sided with Iraq in its 1980-88 war against Iran.
The State Department says the MEK groups were funded by Saddam Hussein, supported the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and are responsible for the deaths of Americans in the 1970s.
But there have been attempts in recent years by some members of the U.S. Congress advocating the group’s removal from the list because of its stance against the Iranian regime and because it does not pose a direct threat to the U.S.
The Associated Press – September 29, 2006