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Iran says won’t recognise Belgium verdict for diplomat

Iran has said it will not recognise any verdict by a Belgian court against a diplomat accused of plotting to bomb an exiled opposition group’s rally.

Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces 20 years in prison if convicted of plotting to target a rally for opposition groups based outside Iran, organised in Villepinte outside Paris for June 30, 2018.

The rally included the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK), which Tehran considers a “terrorist group” and has banned since 1981.

“We have announced many times and from the beginning that this court is not qualified, and that the judicial process is not legitimate due to (Assadi’s) diplomatic immunity and fundamental issues,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying Friday by ISNA news agency.

“And even it does lead to a verdict, we will not recognise it,” he said. “He is innocent and it is clear he has been conspired against.”

The 48-year-old refused to appear as the trial began on Friday, claiming diplomatic immunity, but three co-accused were all in court.

Despite Assadi’s absence, Belgian prosecutors say they have the right to proceed.

The trial is to continue with lawyer Dimitri de Beco representing Assadi.

After Friday’s session, the second part of the trial is scheduled to take place on Thursday. The court is then expected to adjourn to consider its verdict before ruling early next year.

Iran had previously criticised what it considered a violation of Assadi’s diplomatic immunity, saying his arrest was “illegal”.

In October 2018, France accused Iran’s ministry of intelligence of being behind the alleged attack.

Tehran has strongly denied the charges.