Court to deliver verdict on suspected Iran bomb plot in France in January

·3-min read

A Belgian court will deliver its verdict on 22 January in the trial of an Iranian diplomat accused of plotting to bomb an exiled opposition group's rally. Assadollah Assadi, a 48-year-old diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces 20 years in prison if convicted of plotting to target the rally in Villepinte, outside Paris, on 30 June 2018.

The rally included the People's Mojahedin of Iran (MEK), which Tehran considers a "terrorist group" and has banned since 1981. The group fell out with the Islamic regime, fought them from a base in Iraq, provided by then strongman Saddam Hussein, and found refuge in France and Albania after Saddam’s demise.

Assadi, a diplomat whom the MEK says works for Tehran’s intelligence services, was extradited from Austria to Belgium in October 2018. He denies any involvement in the plot, which was foiled by security services, and has refused to appear at Antwerp Criminal Court, where he is on trial with three alleged accomplices.

On 3 December, the second and last day of the hearing, the three maintained their innocence.

TATP

According to Belgian prosecutors, the couple was intercepted on 30 June, 2018, and in their car police found 500 grams of TATP explosives and a detonator. TATP, a highly explosive material, was used in the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the November 2015 bombings in Paris and others.

Lawyers for Nasimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni. A Belgian-Iranian couple arrested in possession of explosives in their car on their way to France claimed the material was not powerful enough to kill.

The lawyer for the third alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, described by the prosecution as a relative of Assadi, has refuted his involvement and also pleaded for his acquittal.

The lawyer for the third alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, described by the prosecution as a relative of Assadi, has refuted his involvement and also pleaded for his acquittal.

Rudy Giuliani

Prosecutors are seeking an 18-year jail term for the couple and 15 for Arefani.

The target of the alleged bomb plot was the yearly meeting of the MEK’s political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran in the Villepinte conference centre outside Paris which was attended by several allies of US President Donald Trump, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Naami and Saadouni were arrested in Brussels the same day. One day later German police arrested Assadi, who allegedly handed the couple the explosives at a June meeting in Luxembourg.

Through his lawyer Dimitri de Beco, Assadi again protested that he should not have been deprived of his diplomatic immunity.

The verdict will be delivered at 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) on 22 January.

Tensions

The case has caused tensions between Iran and several European countries.

In October 2018, the French foreign ministry accused Iran's ministry of intelligence of being behind the alleged attack. Tehran has strongly denied the charges.

Deputy Judiciary Chief and Head of the Iranian Judiciary's High Council for Human Rights Ali Baqeri Kani accused the West of “double standards” when it comes to terrorism, Iran’s state controlled Fars News Agency reported.

Kani “criticised the countries which voted for the recent UN human rights resolution against Iran but did not condemn the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh,’’ who was killed on 27 November – while “harbouring” groups like the MEK, and protecting their “illegitimate interests…and even providing them with different possibilities despite all their killings and crimes”.