On February 4, a Belgian court sentenced Iranian diplomat Asadollah Asadi to 20 years in jail for plotting an attack on an Iranian opposition gathering near the French capital Paris.
The Court of Antwerp also sentenced three Belgian nationals of Iranian origin, who were also involved in the alleged plot, to between 15 to 18 years in prison. All three convicts were also stripped of their Belgian citizenship.
Asadi, who worked as a diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna, allegedly plotted to bomb the annual meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The council is a coalition of Iranian opposition groups, which includes the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
French security forces apprehended Asadi in Germany on June 10 of 2018. The Iranian diplomat was then handed over to Belgian authorities.
On June 30, two of the now-convicted Belgian-Iranians – Nasim Naami, 33, and Amir Saadoni, 38 – were arrested in Brussels. 500 grams of explosives and a detonator were found with them. The explosives were allegedly smuggled by Asadi from Iran in a diplomatic suitcase. The third person convicted of aiding Asadi was 57-year old Mehrdad Arefani, an Iranian poet resident in Europe.
Belgian investigators claim that Asadi was an Iranian intelligence officer operating under the cover of a diplomat. Naami, Saadoni and Arefani allegedly conspired with him.
Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif questioned the Belgian and French allegations when Asadi was first arrested less than three years ago. The arrest coincided with the visit of a senior Iranian delegation to Europe.
“How surprising it is that at the same time as our [Iranian delegation] traveled to Europe with the President of Iran, Iran’s alleged operation was launched and one person was arrested,” the minister said back then. “Iran explicitly condemns violence and terrorism everywhere and is ready to address any concerns in this regard.”
The Asadi case is being used as a tool to pressure Iran. To this day, Tehran has not confirmed the allegations made by Belgium and France against the diplomat.
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