Court In Belgium Sentences Iranian Diplomat Over 2018 Bomb Plot In A First For Europe

(Photo by PAUL ZINKEN/dpa/AFP via Getty Images)

Andrew Jose Contributor
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A Belgian court sentenced Vienna-based Iranian diplomat Assadolah Assadi to 20 years’ imprisonment Thursday for his role in a 2018 bomb plot against exiled Iranian dissents in Paris, France.

The court had rejected Assadi’s claims of diplomatic immunity.

“The ruling shows two things: A diplomat doesn’t have immunity for criminal acts … and the responsibility of the Iranian state in what could have been carnage,” Georges-Henri Beauthier, a Belgian prosecution lawyer in Assadi’s case, told reporters outside the court in Antwerp, France 24 reported(RELATED: Political Scientist Was ‘Secret Employee’ Of Iran, US Says)

Assadi’s trial was Europe’s first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Reuters.

Three other Iranians, also having Belgian citizenship, received 15, 17, and 18-year sentences respectively for their role as accomplices in the terror plot. Their Belgian citizenships were also stripped.

Defense attorney Dimitri De Beco said that Assadi would likely appeal the court’s ruling and sentencing, reported the Associated Press (AP).

German Police arrested Assadi Jul. 2018 after he met with a Belgian couple of Iranian origin at a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg, under the watch of Luxembourgish intelligence, the BBC reported.

Belgian Police, tipped off by intelligence agencies, then intercepted the couple, Nasimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni, while they were traveling in a Mercedes car in Brussels on Jun. 30, 2018, according to reporting from the BBC and the AP. 

They discovered 550 grams of the unstable TATP explosive and a detonator in the couple’s luggage. The explosive and detonator, according to prosecutors, was going to be used against attendees of a Jun. 30, 2018 meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that US politicians Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, and Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer attended.

Belgium’s bomb disposal unit said that the detonator “of professional quality” could have caused a sizable explosion and panic in the crowd of roughly 25,000 people that had gathered that day in the French town of Villepinte, north of Paris, reported the AP.

Belgian-Iranian poet Merhad Arefani was also arrested in Paris and accused of being Assadi’s third accomplice, the BBC reported.

Belgian prosecutors charged Assadi Oct. 2018, according to Reuters.

NCRI chief Maryam Rajavi told Reuters that Thursday’s ruling was a turning point proving Iran was carrying out state-sanctioned terrorism. 

“Silence and inaction would be the worst policy and embolden the regime in its behaviour,” Rajavi said. “The European Union and governments must hold the regime accountable.” (RELATED: Bomb Explodes Near Israeli Embassy In New Delhi; Officials Suspect Terror Attack, Iranian Involvement)

Toby Dershowitz, tracking Iran-backed terrorism overseas at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank, told the Jerusalem Post that Assadi’s case is not an outlier but part of a pattern of the Islamic Republic’s terrorism in Europe and across the world.

Iran has denied involvement in the foiled plot, calling accusations “shallow” fabrications, Al Jazeera reported.