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27 Nov, 2020 09:29

Four Iranians on trial in Belgium over suspected France bomb plot in European first

Four Iranians on trial in Belgium over suspected France bomb plot in European first

An Iranian diplomat and three of his compatriots go on trial in Belgium on Friday after being accused of plotting to bomb an opposition rally outside Paris in 2018, in the first such proceedings in Europe.

The diplomat, Assadolah Assadi, who was formerly based in Vienna, and the three others have been charged by prosecutors in Belgium with planning an attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The exiled opposition group is headquartered in the French capital.

The trial is scheduled to be held on Friday and then Thursday next week, and if convicted, Assadi, 48, faces life in prison. The diplomat, who has not commented on the charges, was arrested while on holiday in July 2018 in Germany, where he had no immunity from prosecution and was handed over to Belgium.

This is the first time an Iranian official has been put on trial in an EU member state for terrorism.
Two of his suspected accomplices, a couple living in Belgium, had also been arrested Belgium, with police saying they had half a kilo of the explosive TATP and a detonator.

Another alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, 57, is an Iranian poet who had lived in Belgium for several years. He was arrested in France in 2018.

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Belgian authorities said in June 2018 that they had thwarted an attempt to "smuggle explosives" to France to attack the meeting, and later that year, French officials accused Tehran's intelligence service of being behind the operation. Jaak Raes, head of the Belgium's state security service (VSSE), said in a letter to the prosecutor in February this year that "the attack plan was conceived in the name of Iran and under its leadership."

France also accused Iran's intelligence ministry of planning the plot and reportedly expelled an Iranian diplomat in retaliation in October 2018.

The assets of an Iranian intelligence unit and officials were frozen in the European Union.

The Islamic Republic has denied the allegations, saying that the "plot" was a stunt by the NCRI, which is labeled a terrorist group in Iran.

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