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Belgium To Try Iranian Diplomat Accused Of Planned Terrorist Attack In France

Asadollah Asadi, Iranian diplomat, was arrested in Germany on terror suspicion in June 2018. File Photo

A Belgian court on Wednesday ruled that an Iranian diplomat and three others suspected of a planned terrorist attack on a gathering of 25,000 dissidents in Paris in 2018 should be held in Belgium in the coming months.

The Antwerp public prosecutor's office has charged the four suspects including Asadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat, of trying to plant a bomb at the venue of the gathering on June 30, 2018, Belgian news agency Belga reported on Wednesday.

The planned attack targeted an annual gathering of the opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) in Villepinte near Paris. The organization which is also known as People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran and its members have been persecuted by the clerical regime since 1981. The group was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997 but was delisted in 2012.

Assadi who served as the third secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Austria was arrested in Germany and was extradited to Belgium. He is accused of planning the bombing and providing the explosives to an Iranian couple from Brussels.

The National Resistance Council of Iran (NRCI), a political coalition based in France and Albania in which the MEK plays a big role, in a statement on Wednesday said this was the first time in Europe that a diplomat had been brought to trial for direct involvement in terrorism. The group claims that Assadi was a senior official of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and the station chief in Austria.

According to DPA, the couple were arrested by Belgian security forces in Brussels before carrying out the attack with 500 grams of the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and a detonator in a toiletry bag in their car. Another suspect was arrested in France while Assadi who was on a holiday trip in Bavaria was arrested there and turned over to the Beligian authorities as he did not enjoy diplomatic immunity in Germany.

The French Foreign Ministry said Iranian intelligence services were involved in the plans for the foiled terrorist attack and sanctioned two organizations. The French move was welcomed by the European Union.

Iran has always denied the allegations against its diplomat and in July 2018 summoned the French and Belgian ambassadors and Germany's chargé d'affaires in protest at his arrest in Germany.