Iran, December 1, 2020—The trial of Assadollah Assadi, an Austria-based Iranian diplomat charged with plotting a bomb attack in France, started on Friday, November 27, in Antwerp, Belgium. Assadi was the operational commander of the foiled terrorist plot in targeting the 2018 Free-Iran annual gathering of the Iranian opposition in Villepinte, north of Paris. He and his three accomplices, the Belgian-Iranian couple Amir Sadouni and Nasimeh Naami, and Mehrdad Arefani were arrested by European authorities shortly before the rally was held on July 1, 2018.
Assadi, who did not appear in court, was represented by his lawyer at the court and appealed for diplomatic immunity, which Austria had already waived. Sadouni, Naami, and Arefani, who acted under his command as the “sleeper cells” for many years, were also tried at the court.
Widely covered by international media, Assadi is the first Iranian diplomat being trialed in Europe on terrorism charges.
The trial has turned into a political scandal and an international disgrace for the mullahs’ regime. The undeniable evidence in the case clearly points the finger to the role of the Iranian regime’s intelligence ministry and the involvement of the highest Iranian officials in the plot.
Following the nationwide protests in 2018, the regime sought to eliminate the main opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) by two organized terrorist plots in Albania in March 2018 and Villepinte (Paris) in June 2018. Both attacks were neutralized at the last moment. According to the Belgian media, the MEK was the main stimulator of the 2018 protests, and the regime sought at any cost to eliminate the main threat to its rule.
A summary of Assadi’s case
Assadollah Assadi, an agent of the Iranian secret service, the MOIS, was accredited as the third counselor at Iran’s embassy in Vienna. He worked under the diplomatic cover as the MOIS chief in Europe, to recruit and guide sleeper cells and MOIS agents. He used the Vienna embassy as his main headquarters.
On June 28, Assadi personally delivered an IED (improvised explosive device) loaded with 500 grams TATP explosives to Saadouni and Naami in Luxembourg. Assadi was later arrested in Germany on his way back to Austria.
A notebook found in Assadi’s car by the German police contained clear instructions on how to charge the bomb and connect the wires. In their correspondence, Assadi and the two terrorists used “Play Station 4” as the codename for the bomb.
Saadouni and Naami kept the bomb for two days in their home in Antwerp and prepared it a day before the Free Iran gathering in Paris. The couple was arrested by the Belgian Security service in Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, near Brussels, on June 30, on their way to Villepinte. Mehrdad Arefani was arrested in Villepinte by the French police. He had in his possession a phone that had only one registered number: Assadi’s. In the phone’s draft folder, there was an unsent message to Assadi with one word: “OK.” Arefani would be Assadi’s eyes and ears at the scene of the attack.
Arefani was later extradited to Belgium. The Iranian regime used all his diplomatic force to prevent the extradition of Assadi to Belgium. In an interview with the state-run ISNA news agency on January 23, 2019, Ali Majedi, former Iranian regime ambassador to Germany said, “We have tried hard to stop the extradition of Assadi to Belgium. But Europe came up with documents that we could not easily deny. The least it showed was that Iran was behind the whole operation.”
The three Iranian regime terrorists, including Assadi, are trialed in Belgium on charge of “attempted terrorist murder” and “participation in the activities of a terrorist organization.”
The 500-gram TATP explosives were found in Nasimeh Naami’s handbag. The explosives were delivered by Assadollah Assadi on June 28, in Luxembourg.
The Belgian federal prosecutor also has concluded that such an act could never be a personal initiative of Assadi, and the regime in Iran has motivated and planned it. The investigations have shown that Assadi’s mission has never been diplomatic. According to previous revelations by the MEK, Assadi was also the “third counselor” of the regime’s embassy in Bagdad before being appointed in Vienna. Assadi is also an expert on explosives and was a member of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), a military entity that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.
According to Belgian National Intelligence, the VSSE, on June 22, 2018, Assadi smuggled the TATP explosives in his “diplomatic luggage” in a Austrian Airlines flight from Tehran to Vienna.
A brief report of the first trial
The first trial was held under strict security measures. The lawyers of the plaintiffs, who represented the National Council of the Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and numerous prominent figures and personalities, explained to the court how in all these years the regime targeted and killed its opponents abroad.
Assadi’s lawyer, Dimitri de Béco, mentioned that since his client has diplomatic immunity and does not recognize the court, he cannot be tried. The court hearing was held nonetheless, with Assadi in absentia.
In this regard, Rik Vanreusel, the lawyer of the NCRI, explained that this court is a matter of western freedoms, western democracy, and the rule of law. Vanreusel explained that the regime’s so-called diplomats use their diplomatic immunity to commit terrible crimes in Europe and evade law. The court should announce that Assadi used a diplomatic cover and this is not allowed, Vanreusel said, adding that Assadi and by extension the Iranian regime, which never stopped backing him, will be questioned in court.
The court ruling
In the trial, Belgian prosecutors revealed much about the graveness of the matter and the significance of the trial. In the indictment, Belgian prosecutors demanded a 20-year prison sentence for Assadi, 18 years in prison for Sadouni and Na’ami, and 15 years for Arefani. The prosecutor reiterated that the main target of the attack was Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, and the keynote speaker of the Free Iran rally. The prosecutor also underlined that all obtained evidence shows that Assadi was commanding the terrorist operation and his prosecution is necessary for Belgium’s own security.
According to Belgium’s 2002 legislation, even if Assadi had diplomatic immunity, Belgian authorities could have arrested him, the prosecutor said and added that even according to Austrian law, Belgian authorities were entitled to arresting Assadi. Since he was planning to commit mass murder, international law allows authorities to strip Assadi of his diplomatic immunity and arrest him.
The prosecutor pointed out that the Iranian regime’s order for Assadi to not appear in the court session and answer questions indicates that the regime was behind the terrorist operation.
In this regard, the daily Keyhan, affiliated to the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, blamed regime president Hassan Rouhani’s Foreign Ministry for the start of Assadi’s trial in Antwerp. “In June 2018, the Foreign Ministry had to act under the Vienna convention. When Germany did not send Assadi back to Iran, based on the reciprocity principle, we should have arrested Assadi’s German counterparts in Iran. The Foreign Ministry not only did not do that but appointed a lawyer for a person who benefits diplomatic immunity,” Keyhan wrote on Saturday, November 28, a day after the trial.
Also, back in July, Reuters reported that Assadi even threatened the Belgium authorities for possible retaliation if condemned. He literally said “armed groups in the region are very interested in the outcome of your investigation. They will act if the court ruling is not in their favor.”
The trial of the entire mullahs’ regime
For the international community, it is clear that Assadollah Assadi’s trial is not the prosecution of an individual but an entire regime and its “state-sponsored terrorism.” This is a test for Europe to end its policy of silence toward the terrorist regime of Iran and not let the mullahs’ use Europe as their base for destructive acts against opposition members and freedom activists.