Iranians face trial over alleged bomb plot in unprecedented European trial

Iranians face trial over alleged bomb plot in unprecedented European trial
The high profile case is the first time a European court has put an Iranian official on trial.
3 min read
27 November, 2020
Belgian police officers stand guard at the entrance of the court in Antwerp [Getty]

An Iranian official and three diplomats are set to go on trial in Belgium over an alleged bomb plot in 2018, the first time a terrorism case of this kind has made it to a European court.

The four Iranian nationals had allegedly planned to bomb a rally in France held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, Reuters reports.

Assadolah Assadi, who was the third counsellor at Iran’s embassy in Vienna is on trial along with three other defendants.

US President Donald Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani was set to give the NCRI rally’s keynote address in the French town of Villepinte near Paris.

French officials claim Assadi had been acting on orders from Tehran.

However, Iran denies the charge, claiming that the bomb plot was a "false flag" by the NCRI, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the Iranian government.

What happened?

On 28 June 2018 two Belgian nationals of Iranian origin, a married couple identified as Amir S and Nasimeh N drove from Antwerp to Luxembourg, where they met an Iranian man (purportedly Assadi) in a Pizza Hut, who allegedly gave them a package. Then they left the city, watched by operatives from European intelligence agencies.

Belgian police said the package that changed hands contained half a kilogram of the explosive TATP and a detonator.

Belgium prosecutors said explosives and a detonator were also found in Nasimah N’s handbag.

Police arrested Amir S and Nasimeh in Brussels while they were driving to France, while German police arrested Assadi in the southern German state of Bavaria while he was trying to return to Austria.

An additional man, believed to be an accomplice, was arrested in Paris, and all four suspects were accused of attempted murder and preparing an act of terrorism.

Their arrest coincided with a visit from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Austria.

At the time, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter and said: "How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its 'plotters' arrested.

"Iran unequivocally condemns all violence & terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy".

Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian ambassador to Germany who is now a research scholar at Princeton University, told the BBC "bad actors" inside Iran were trying to undermine the country's image abroad.

"I would be really sorry for my country if my supreme leader, my president and National Security Council all decided to build excellent relations with Europe and some rogue elements undid it. But you cannot blame the government and the state," he said.

Amir S and Nasimeh N admit to receiving a package from Assadi but deny knowledge of its contents and insist they were deceived by the diplomat.

Assadi denies the charges against him.

"His defence will raise a number of procedural issues, including the question of his diplomatic immunity, since it is not disputed that he had diplomatic status, at least at the time of the facts," his lawyer, Dimitri de Beco, told the Associated Press earlier this week.

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