Antwerp (dpa) – About two and a half years after a thwarted bombing of a mass rally of Iranians in exile in France, the trial of four alleged perpetrators in Belgium has begun.
The defendants are accused in a court in Antwerp of planning and preparing the attack on the event with thousands of participants. According to researchers, it could have resulted in countless deaths and injuries.
The trial is explosive because among the defendants is an Iranian who was arrested in Germany in 2018 and accredited as a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna at the time of the crime. According to the researchers, 48-year-old Assadollah A. is an employee of the Iranian secret service MOIS, whose tasks include monitoring and combating opposition groups inside and outside Iran. It is therefore considered possible that the attack plans were based on a direct government mandate.
Assadollah A. was represented by his lawyer at the start of the trial. Representatives of the NCRI opposition group, which is banned in Iran, accused the Tehran government of ordering the man to refuse to appear in court. Iran’s National Council of Resistance (NCRI) organized the meeting on June 30, 2018 in Villepinte near Paris.
Assadollah A. was arrested on July 1, 2018 at a motorway gas station near Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, and then extradited from Germany to Belgium amid violent protests by the government in Tehran. Iran claims the diplomat is innocent and believes he should not have been extradited.
However, the German judiciary argued that Assadollah A. was not under diplomatic protection when he was arrested for vacationing outside Austria. The federal prosecutor’s office had received an arrest warrant for the man, among other things for activities of the secret service and an appointment to murder.
The other defendants in Antwerp include a married couple living in Belgium who, according to the investigation, should have committed the attack. Assadollah A. is said to have given him an explosive with a total of 500 grams of the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in the city of Luxembourg at the end of June 2018. Belgian special forces stopped and arrested the couple with the explosives in the car on their way to France.
A verdict in the process is expected at the earliest at the end of December. The defendants can face up to 20 years in prison.
The EU had already put Assadollah A. on its terrorist list at the beginning of 2019, which, among other things, allowed his assets to be frozen in the EU. In addition, the Internal Security Directorate of the secret service MOIS was mentioned.