On Thursday, a Belgian court convicted an Iranian diplomat for plotting to bomb a 2018 meeting of the Iranian opposition in Paris. The Iranian government condemned the ruling as “illegal and a clear violation of international law.” Iran threatened to use “all possible legal and diplomatic means” to defend the diplomat and “hold responsible governments that have breached their international obligations.”
Assadollah Assadi, now 49, supplied explosives for the attempted bombing while he worked at the Iranian embassy in Austria. After authorities foiled the attack, they arrested Assadi in Germany in July 2018, where he could not claim diplomatic immunity.
Assadi provided explosives to Belgian-Iranian couple Nasimeh Naami, 36, and AmirSaadouni, 40. Another accomplice of Assadi’s, Belgium-based Iranian poet Mehrdad Arefani, planned to guide the couple to the June 30, 2018, gathering of the Iranian opposition in Villepinte, near Paris.
The 2018 gathering featured senior leaders of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) and some high-profile supporters, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The Belgian court sentenced Assadi to 20 years in prison, Naami to 18 years in prison, Saadouni to 15 years in prison, and Arefani to 17 years in prison.
Here's the 🇧🇪 court verdict sentencing
-Assadollah Assadi (Iran's diplomat-terrorist) to 20 yrs in prison
-Nasimeh Naami to 18 yrs
-Mehrdad Arefani to 17 yrs
-Amir Saadouni to 15 yrs
— M. Hanif Jazayeri (@HanifJazayeri) February 4, 2021
After Assadi’s arrest in 2018, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif condemned terrorism and suggested the enemies of Iran falsely accused Assadi of the bombing plot.
After the verdict, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, condemned the verdict and the 20-year sentence.
“As we have stated many times earlier, all the steps regarding Asadi’s detention, the judicial process and the recent sentencing are illegal and a clear violation of international law, especially the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and [Iran] does not recognize it,” the Islamic Republic’s official English Twitter account announced, summarizing Khatibzadeh’s remarks.
Khatibzadeh claimed that NCRI and its allies concocted a false allegation against Assadi.
“Unfortunately, Belgium and some European countries, under the influence of the machination of Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorist group in Europe, have taken such an illegal and unjustifiable action,” he said.
“Iran reserves the right to take all possible legal and diplomatic means to exercise the rights of Assadollah Asadi and to hold responsible governments that have breached their international obligations,” the spokesman warned.
Yet NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi said that the Islamic Republic was ultimately responsible for the bomb plot.
“It is the regime in its entirety which is being judged in this trial — it is about state terrorism,” Rajavi told AFP before the verdict. After the verdict, she called the convictions “a heavy blow the regime in Iran. It is an blow (sic) to its strategy of export of terrorism.”
“The conviction of the clerical regime in the Court of Antwerp is a very significant step, but it must be continued until the regime’s entire terrorism apparatus is dismantled,” she added.
While Iran insists the Iranian opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) has a history of terrorism, the opposition party has insisted that terrorist acts the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attributed to it were really perpetrated by a Marxist-Leninist faction called Peykar. In 2012, the State Department removed the MEK from its list of terrorist organizations.
British Member of Parliament Bob Blackman urged the international community to close Iranian embassies and cut off diplomatic ties to the Islamic Republic.
“Following conviction of [Assadi], international community should seriously consider outright closure of [Iranian] embassies & complete severance of diplomatic ties if regime refuses to comply. The world is watching how our our political leaders respond,” Blackman tweeted.
These convictions highlighted Iran’s terrorism just as the regime hopes new U.S. President Joe Biden will loosen sanctions on the Islamic Republic. It would be a mistake for Biden to backtrack from Trump’s firm stances against Iran.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.