(CNS News) -- A Belgian court in Antwerp today ruled that Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi is guilty for his role in planning a thwarted bomb attack in Paris in 2018 against an Iranian-opposition rally and for attempted terrorist murder. The court sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Assadi’s claim of diplomatic immunity was rejected by the Belgian court. In addition to the sentencing of the diplomat, three other defendants -- Nasimeh Naami, Mehrdad Arefani, and Amir Saadouni were sentenced, respectively, to 18, 17, and 15 years in prison for their roles.
A statement from the court said, “The facts relate to a foiled attack on a conference of an Iranian opposition group in Villepinte (near Paris) on June 30, 2018. Thousands of people were present at this conference, including a number of international (political) personalities.”
“… The court has ruled that all four defendants are guilty of attempted terrorist murder,” reads the statement. “The court found it proven beyond doubt that the first and second defendants were on their way to the Iranian opposition congress with an explosive device to carry out a lethal attack, under the operational leadership of the fourth defendant [Assadi]. The third defendant played a role at the congress itself and is considered a co-perpetrator to the attempted terrorist murder.”
“Finally, the court found that the four defendants are part of a larger terrorist group within a specific Iranian intelligence service,” said the court. “This appears from the sums of money paid to the defendants, the way information was gathered, the meetings in Iran, the use of diplomatic status, and the making and testing of the explosive device in Iran itself.
The attempted target of the bombing, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), released a statement regarding its opinion on the European Union’s next course of action:
“Therefore, as prominent European parliamentarians and dignitaries have declared, the Iranian Resistance once again calls on governments of Europe to change their approaches and policies and:
- Shut down the regime’s embassies and other centers in Europe, all of which are hubs for terrorism.
- Hold the regime’s Foreign Minister accountable. It was proven that his ministry, and the embassy and diplomat under his control were involved in planning and preparing for the potential mass slaughter.
- Designate the entire Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC as terrorist entities.
Prosecute the regime’s leaders who are in charge and are the masterminds of its terrorism infrastructure. They must face justice.
- The mullahs’ intelligence agents and mercenaries under any cover must be prosecuted and expelled. Granting them refugee status or citizenship must be considered a red line.
- Any form of normalization of diplomatic relations with the regime must be made contingent on dismantling its terrorism infrastructure and activities.
“Prevent the regime from deceiving western intelligence services and from taking advantage of such contacts to protect its own terrorists.”
A spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to Reuters, believes the conviction is a product of a “Western trap,” and added that Iran denies culpability.
Commenting on the case in a virtual policy briefing held by the NCRI, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said the bombing plot was “not a rogue group, it was a state-sponsored act of terrorism.”
WATCH #LIVE NOW | Briefing examines implications of today’s Belgian court conviction of the Iranian regime’s top diplomat of state-sanctioned #terrorism. Evidence of Tehran's Foreign Ministry’s role in 2018 Paris bombing plot. #Time4FirmIranPolicyhttps://t.co/DrKCO8o8Na— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) February 4, 2021
Iran was designated state-sponsor of terror in 1984 by the U.S. State Department.
Regarding the U.S. and other Western countries, Ridge said that to combat the Iranian regime they must “simply recognize the NCRI as the embodiment of the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people.”