Belgian court sentences Iranian diplomat Assadolah Assadi to 20 years in jail over Paris bomb plot

An Iranian diplomat accused of planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group was sentenced by a Belgian court to 20 years in prison on Thursday in the first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism in Europe since Iran’s 1979 revolution, Reuters reports.

Assadolah Assadi was found guilty of attempted terrorism after a foiled plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) near Paris in June 2018, Belgian prosecution lawyers and civil parties to the prosecution said.

The third counsellor at Iran’s embassy in Vienna - in reality, he was Europe bureau chief for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security - he was arrested in Germany before being transferred to Belgium for trial. French officials said he was running an Iranian state intelligence network and was acting on orders from Tehran.

Assadi did not attend his hearings, which were held behind closed doors under high security, and neither he nor his lawyer have commented.

In March, Assadi warned authorities of possible retaliation by unidentified groups if he was found guilty, according to a police document obtained by Reuters. The courtroom was heavily guarded, with armoured vehicles outside and police helicopters overhead.

In a statement carried by Iranian state television, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Unfortunately, Belgium and some European countries, under the influence of the hostile atmosphere of a terrorist group, have taken such an illegal and unjustifiable action.

“Therefore,” he said, “they must be held accountable for the gross violation of the rights of our country’s diplomats.”

Prosecution lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier said outside the court in Antwerp: “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.”

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