Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iranian Diplomat Arrested In Belgium Threatens Authorities

Asadollah Asadi, Iranian diplomat, was arrested in Germany on terror suspicion-- Jun 2018

Belgian police have released documents saying an Iranian diplomat in Belgium's custody, Assadollah Asadi, has threatened that a verdict against him could lead to "revenge."

Assadi was accused in Belgium of planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group, Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), in France. Before being detained, Assadi was the Third Secretary at the Iranian regime's embassy in Austria.

Minutes of a March 2020 meeting between Assadi and Belgian police, seen by Reuters and confirmed as authentic by his lawyer, shows that the diplomat initially set out Tehran's long-standing grievances with the MEK's activities in the past.

The Times of Israel described Assadi's remarks as a "warning" to Belgium in a report published in its last Friday issue.

Additionally, as the Jerusalem Post reported, Assadi warned Belgian authorities that his case was being "closely watched" by undisclosed groups in Iran and neighboring countries.

"According to (Assadollah), we (Belgians) do not realize what is going to happen, in the event of an unfavorable verdict," the minutes taken by the Belgian police say.

Assadi told police that armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria, as well as in Iran, were interested in the outcome of his case and would be "watching from the sidelines to see if Belgium would support them, or not."

Assadi declined to answer when asked by police if any kind of organization was involved.

Tehran has repeatedly dismissed the charges against Assadi, calling them a "false flag" operation by the National Council of Resistance of Iran's (NCRI) political arm, the MKO, which presents itself as an alternative to the clergy-dominated ruling establishment in Iran.

Tehran accused European states of harboring the MKO, which it deems a terrorist organization. The group had previously been based in the Iraqi capital Baghdad under former president Saddam Hussein.

The MKO was on the U.S. State Department's terror list from 1997 to 2012, after which the group renounced violence.

Referring to Assadi's threatening of Belgian officials, Iranian authorities say that he had expressed his personal opinion and had not discussed the matter with members of the Iranian government.

A spokesman for the Belgian prosecutor's office responded that such threats might occur, but that the country was taking the necessary security measures.

However, Assadi's lawyer, Dimitri de Beco, has denied such a threat from his client.

De Beco told Reuters that Assadi had not threatened to retaliate and that any such interpretation would be a misunderstanding, which he would explain at the next court hearing.

"It is absolutely not a threat of retaliation, and if it's understood that way, it's a misinterpretation," he told Reuters. "He will explain the sense of his remarks to the court."

Six people were arrested in Belgium, France, and Germany in connection with "Iran's planning" to assassinate dissidents in Europe in July 2018. Police released two of them later.

At the time, Assadi, the third secretary of the Iranian embassy in Austria, was arrested on his way back to Vienna after a trip to southern Germany and extradited to Belgium because Brussels had issued his arrest warrant.

With his diplomatic immunity revoked, Assadi is still in custody on charges of trying to deliver explosives to a couple to blow them up at an MKO gathering in the Villepin area on the outskirts of Paris.

The trial of Assadi and his three accomplices began on June 14, 2020, in Belgium. All four were arrested for attempting to bomb the NCRI's annual "Free Iran" gathering in Paris on June 30, 2018.

"Assadi and his accomplices, Amir Sadouni, his wife Nasimeh Naami, and Mehrdad Arefani, are on trial for attempted murder and participation in a terrorist cell. The court in Antwerp, Belgium, has officially accepted the prosecutor's demand to hold this trial on these charges," NCRI reported on October 3.

Sadouni and Naami allegedly posed as MKO supporters for nearly twelve years and tried using this position to take the bomb to the "Free Iran" gathering in Villepinte, France, but were arrested en route to Paris.

The next hearing in Assadi's trial is set to begin on November 27 in Belgium.

This case marks the first time an Iranian diplomat in Europe is being prosecuted for direct terrorism involvement.

It is unknown whether attributing the controversial comments to Assadi would again bring in the Belgian police to the case or whether new charges would be filed against the Iranian diplomat.

In a statement published on Saturday, the NCRI shared that its "President-elect," Maryam Rajavi, "testified for seven hours while presenting documents which made it clear that the major terrorist operation was decided during a session of the Islamic Republic regime's Supreme National Security Republic headed by President Hassan Rouhani."

Furthermore, Rajavi maintained that the operation was approved with "the direct order of the regime's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei"

"In addition to Assadi and other terrorists arrested as perpetrators of this crime, the actual masterminds, namely Khamenei, Rouhani, Zarif, and the Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, must be prosecuted," NCRI cited Rajavi as saying.