U.S. Citizen Found in Iraq Accused of Supporting Terror Group

A naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran who was found in Iraq was indicted Friday on charges of providing support to a terrorist organization that seeks to overthrow the Iranian regime, federal prosecutors said.

Zeinab Taleb-Jedi, 51, then a resident of Herndon, Va., 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.

MEK, also known as the People's Mujahedin of Iran, and its affiliates were deemed foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department in 1997. The designations bar anyone in the United States from providing material support.

The group was founded in Iran 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.

Taleb-Jedi was discovered by coalition forces at a camp called Ashraf Base about 40 miles northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. attorney's office statement said. It was unclear when.

U.S. forces took control of the camp and sent many members back to Iran on condition that they leave MEK, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the attorney's office.

"An investigation reveals that she played an active role at the camp," Mrozek said.

Taleb-Jedi was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York City on one count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. She faces up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted.

She 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 handled by Los Angeles-based prosecutors who have been involved in MEK-related investigations since the 1990s.

She was assigned a public defender in New York and released on bond.

Taleb-Jedi immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1978 and became a 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 attorney's office did not release any information on the woman's occupation.

Some members of Congress in recent years have advocated the group's removal from the terrorism list because of its stance against the Iranian regime and because it doesn't pose a direct threat to the U.S.