The Belgian Court of Antwerp declared its ruling in the case of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi and his three accomplices on Thursday, February 4, 2021. Following more than two years of investigations into Tehran’s foiled bomb plot against the Free Iran 2018 rally in Paris, the court annulled Assadi’s diplomatic immunity and sentenced all four “terrorists” to long-term imprisonment.
Back in November 2020, Belgian prosecutors had urged life imprisonment for Assadi, as the plot’s mastermind, and 15-18 years prison for his accomplices. Eventually, judges sentenced Assadi to 20 years, Nasimeh Naami to 18 years, Mehrdad Arefani to 17 years, and Amir Sadouni to 15 years in prison.
Simultaneously, supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI) gathered outside the court. Furthermore, the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held an international webinar connecting Iranian dissidents from at least 40 countries together. Many politicians and members of the parliaments in Europe and the United States attended the virtual conference.
As the conference’s keynote speaker and the main target of Assadi’s attack, NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi highlighted the role of the Iranian government in sponsoring terrorism. “The conviction of the clerical regime’s terrorist diplomat by a European country’s judiciary confirms the regime’s state-sponsored terrorism,” she said.
Assadi’s attorney also affirmed this reality, saying, “My client feels that it is not himself but his government that is on trial.”
The conviction of an Iranian diplomat underscored significant facts, including that the theocracy ruling Iran has organized an extensive network for terrorizing and blackmailing other countries, as well as targeting dissidents. In parallel, Tehran leads a misinformation campaign against the Iranian Resistance, particularly the MEK.
However, Iranian leaders’ main purpose is to suppress domestic objections. The Islamic Republic has institutionalized human rights violations in its constitution, which is the autocrats’ leading instrument to ensuring their establishment. In this context, they employ terrorism to silence governments.
They also target dissidents abroad to dishearten angry people about any protest. The ayatollahs apparently remove their opponents but, in fact, they create and spread an atmosphere of fear among citizens.
Moreover, the Iranian government explicitly addressed its alternative. Iranian officials exploited diplomatic privileges to transfer and deliver explosive materials to terrorist operatives. Under the cover of third counselor of Iran’s embassy in Vienna, Assadollah Assadi was directing Tehran’s intelligence station in Europe.
During this period, he established an extended network of terrorists called sleeper cells. In his travels to 11 European countries, he personally paid secret agents’ salaries. German law enforcement discovered and seized two booklets when they arrested Assadi in July 2018.
One of them contained the bomb instructions for the terror plot. Another one contained 289 notes, including appointments and receipts. This information gave a clue to European security services to shed light on the Iranian government’s covert operations on European soil.
Finally, Assadi had been tasked by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In the West, many know Zarif as a ‘moderate.’ They ironically try to embolden moderates versus hardliners while Zarif and his President Hassan Rouhani are wolves in sheep clothing, opposition activists say.
In other words, the conviction of Zarif’s subordinate proved that there is no distinction between Iran’s moderates and hardliners when it comes to savagery. In this context, before shaking Zarif’s hand and taking selfies, international negotiators must consider what if Assadi’s plot had succeeded and the bomb had exploded.
Iranian dissidents have frequently insisted that the international community should condition any negotiations with Iranian officials to an end to human rights violations inside the country and terrorism abroad. Unconditional negotiations with autocrats in Iran merely incite them to carry out more abuses of human rights and more terror plots, they say.