An Iranian diplomat who tried to bomb a Paris conference “on orders from Tehran” has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. It was the first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism in Europe since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
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, where a 35-strong British delegation were in attendance, including Conservative MPs Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, and Theresa Villiers a government register of interests revealed. Sir David Amess, another Tory MP, and Labour’s Roger Godsiff were also present according to reports.
There were also believed to be around 100,000 Iranians, and hundreds of international dignitaries, including Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Belgian police intercepted 550g of explosives in a car in Brussels, the same type of explosive nicknamed ‘Mother of Satan’ that was used in the Manchester Area terror attack. Couple Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami were arrested. Assadollah Assadi, the third counsellor at Iran’s embassy in Vienna, was believed to be the mastermind behind the plot who handed Saadouni and Naami the explosives during a meeting in a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg, two days before they were arrested.
Assadi was subsequently arrested in Germany before being transferred to Belgium for trial. French officials have 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 amid high security.
In March, he warned authorities of possible retaliation by unidentified groups if he is found guilty, according to a police document obtained by Reuters. The courtroom was heavily guarded, with armoured vehicles outside and police helicopters overhead.
Prosecution lawyer Georges-Henri 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.”
Mr Blackman, MP for Harrow East, spoke in 2020 about the plot, saying it could have been “the deadliest terror operation ever carried out in Europe”, if the explosion had gone off. He said: “For the first time in history, an accredited diplomat is about to face trial on terrorism charges in Europe. That he represents the government of Iran is no surprise.”
He added: “The US would undeniably have declared war on Iran – and it was only because the plot was foiled, World War Three was averted.”
Theresa Villiers, who gave a speech at the conference, said it was an ‘outrage’ that the bomb was allegedly smuggled using a diplomatic bag. She noted: ‘If the court decides that is what happened it will be shocking. I feel I’ve had a lucky escape.’
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