Verdict in bomb plot trial of Iranian diplomat
A Belgian court returns a verdict on Thursday in the trial of an Iranian diplomat accused of plotting a bomb attack against opposition activists meeting in France.
Belgian court returns a verdict on Thursday in the trial of an Iranian diplomat accused of plotting a bomb attack against opposition activists meeting in France.
ssadollah Assadi, a 49-year-old formerly based in Vienna, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of plotting to target the June 30, 2018 rally.
The gathering in Villepinte outside Paris included senior leaders of the exiled National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) and some high-profile supporters.
The case has shone a light on Tehran’s alleged international operations just as it hopes the arrival of new US president will herald a loosening of sanctions.
ssadi is on trial in the Belgian port city of Antwerp along with three co-accused who were also arrested after police foiled the alleged plot.
The diplomat is charged with “attempted murders of a terrorist nature” and “taking part in the activity of a terrorist group”.
Belgian-Iranian couple Nasimeh Naami, 36, and Amir Saadouni, 40 are accused of accepting a half-kilo of TATP explosives and a detonator from Assadi.
They face up to 18 years in jail.
Belgium-based Iranian poet Mehrdad Arefani was said to have been an accomplice of Assadi’s who had been due to guide the couple at the rally.
He could serve 15 years.
Belgian officers halted the couple’s car with the bomb on board on the day of the event, preventing what NCRI’s legal team said would have been a “bloodbath”.
ssadi was arrested on July 1 in Germany. He was accredited to the Iranian mission in Austria and was judged to have no diplomatic immunity in the Belgian case.
Later that year, the French government accused Iran’s intelligence service of being behind the operation, a charge the Islamic republic has furiously denied.
– Iran’s regime ‘on trial’ –
The case stirred tensions between European powers and Tehran, and was seized upon by NCRI supporters to press their case against the Islamist regime.
“It is the regime in its entirety which is being judged in this trial — it is about state terrorism,” the group’s leader Maryam Rajavi told AFP.
The NCRI is the political wing of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), known in English as the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).
The MEK backed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1979 revolution that ousted shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, but rapidly fell out with the new authorities
The group sided with Iraq under Saddam Hussein in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and thousands of its alleged members were executed in a ruthless crackdown.
It now wages a campaign against the Islamic Republic in exile and regards itself as by far the most significant opposition group outside the country.
For detractors, the MEK is a cult-like group that was once classed as a terrorist organisation itself by Western agencies.