Only in Europe does Belgium imprison Iranian diplomat over Paris bombers

An Iranian diplomat accused of plotting to bomb a meeting with a deported opposition group was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday in the first trial of an Iranian suspected terrorist official in the European Union since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Belgian prosecutors and civilian prosecutors said the Vienna-based diplomat Assadolah Assadi was guilty of attempted terrorism after a plan to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) near Paris in June 2018 was destroyed by German, French and Belgian police.

“The ruling shows two things: a diplomat does not have immunity from criminal acts … and the responsibility of the Iranian state in what could have been a bloodbath,” Belgian prosecutor Georges-Henri Beauthier told reporters outside the court in Antwerp.

Journalists and the general public were not allowed to enter the courtroom, which was heavily guarded by police and armored vehicles, with police helicopters overhead.

Three other Iranians were convicted at the trial for their role as accomplices, with 15-, 17- and 18-year sentences.

“It was found that the Iranian regime uses terrorism as a state art and the highest levels of the Iranian regime are involved,” Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the opposition People’s Mojahedin organization in Iran, which is part of NCRI, said outside court.

One of the defense lawyers said he would recommend an appeal, although it was not clear if Assadi would do so. The Islamic Republic has denied involvement in the destroyed plan, saying it is a Western trap.