Thursday, February 4, 2021, the Belgian courts have sentenced Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi to 20 years in prison after finding him guilty of attempting to blow up a 2018 Iranian Resistance rally in France and rejecting his claim of diplomatic immunity.
His hired accomplices received the following sentences for their involvement:
- Nasimeh Naami was sentenced to 18 years in prison
- Mehrdad Arefani was sentenced to 17 years
- Amir Saadouni was sentenced to 15 years
In addition, the trio were stripped of their Belgian citizenship status. This is the first time that an Iranian diplomat has gone on trial for terrorism.
The plot summarized
Assadi smuggled 500g of the TATP explosives into Europe on a commercial plane using his diplomatic luggage. He then handed the bomb and instructions to place it as close as possible to Iranian Resistance leader Maryam Rajavi over to Saadouni and Naami in a Luxembourg Pizza Hut. Finally, Arefani was waiting at the “Free Iran” gathering to report back to Assadi when the bomb had been detonated.
The terrorists were arrested before the bomb could take place, but the plot showcases how Iranian embassies and diplomats across Europe pose a real and present threat to the safety and security of the continent.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held an online conference to discuss what this should mean for the future of Iran’s relations with the Western world, in particular Europe.
Rajavi, who is the NCRI President-elect, praised the historic conviction, saying that this brand of terrorism have been harming the world for over four decades and that the Iranian regime’s embassies, foreign ministry, and intelligence ministry were all involved.
She said: “As I said during my seven-hour testimony, the decision for this plot was taken by the highest regime body, namely the Supreme National Security Council and approved by the mullahs’ supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the mullahs’ president Hassan Rouhani. The Ministry of Intelligence was given the task to execute the decision in close cooperation with the Foreign Ministry.”
Rajavi noted that Assadi abused his diplomatic status to conduct this plot and control a large terrorism network across Europe, according to evidence found in his car by German police upon his arrest.
She said: “The time has come for the European Union to take action. Silence and inaction under whatever pretext will only embolden the mullahs’ regime to continue its crimes and terrorism. The Iranian people expect that the EU revises its Iran policy and hold the ruling theocracy accountable for terrorism, the flagrant violations of human rights, the massacre of political prisoners, and the mass killing of defenseless protesters.”
Rajavi advised that Europe take the following steps to prevent this from happening again:
- Recall ambassadors from Tehran
- Close the regime’s embassies and cultural centres in Europe
- Hold the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and all other leaders accountable for their role in terrorism
- Designate the Intelligence Ministry and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as terrorist entities
- Prosecute and expel all Iranian agents
- Make relations with Iran conditional on the dismantling of the mullahs’ terrorist network in Europe
She said: “Firmness is the correct answer to the mullahs’ blackmail and hostage-taking, otherwise they will continue this sinister policy. The mullahs’ regime is under the mistaken impression that the era of international accountability has ended. The Iranian people and Resistance will not rest. They will never forget the terrorist plot, the crimes against humanity, and the execution and mass killing of prisoners and protesters.”
Following Rajavi were several long-time supporters of the Iranian Resistance from around the world, many of whom were at the 2018 rally.
Ingrid Betancourt, former Presidential Candidate of Columbia, called the verdict a “victory for all the victims of terrorism around the world”.
She pointed out that if the plot had been successful then hundreds, if not thousands, of people would have died and that this plot shows just how terrified the regime were of being overthrown by the Iranian people with the aid of the Resistance.
Betancourt said: “The regime took this insane risk of operating on European soil to destroy the opposition. It was vital for it to strike at the [Resistance] to ensure the survival of the regime.”
She said that the verdict was a “turning point” because despite the regime’s attempts to evade justice, Assadi was sentenced for his crimes. She went on to say that it exposed how Iran is “in the hands of a terrorist organization” because the attack was ordered by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Betancourt said: “This judgement calls for a severe European response. No more accommodation, no more submitting our values to political and economic interests… We call on all leaders in office in Europe to support the Iranian people in their struggle to claim back their country. We must recognize the NCRI and its leader Maryam Rajavi as a valid alternative for a democratic transition in Iran.”
Wesley Martin, a retired US Army Colonel, explained that the regime’s uses domestic repression and foreign terrorism whenever they feel under attack, i.e., after the uprising in 2017 led by the Resistance.
He encouraged the West to work with the Resistance and support the people of Iran in their desire for regime change, which will bring about justice for the regime as a whole.
Former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said: “This is a moment when we have to believe that justice must be rendered for other instances of the crimes committed by the heinous regime of the mullahs. Justice must be rendered for the execution of political prisoners in 1988 and the killing of political refugees in other countries.”
He said the appeasers of the Iranian regime must be aware that the mask is now off and that the regime is labelled a terrorist state, given that it was established in the trail that Assadi was working at the behest of Iran’s rulers and that Zarif attempted to use the hostage taking of dual nationals to secure Assadi’s release.
Terzi said: “This is the number-one state sponsor of terrorism. It supports murderous dictators and terrorist groups. European-Iranian relations must be made contingent on the regime halting its malign activities. Europe’s lack of proper action has emboldened Iran’s regime in its terrorist activities, giving them the impression that they will not be held accountable. Today is the day for a new approach to tackle the terror regime.”
Former Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko then announced his support for Maryam Rajavi and the democratic alternative to the regime, which is not surprising as the country has welcomed thousands of Resistance members since 2016.
Dr. Riad Yassin Abdallah, the former Foreign Minister of Yemen, said: “We should all come together and work together the unwanted terrorism of the Iranian regime which is causing a lot of dying and suffering. We will continue our struggle and fight against terrorism and I think the decision today by the court is worth celebrating.”
Tom Ridge, the former US Homeland Security Secretary, noted that the Resistance posed a real and immediate threat to the regime, which is why this plot was hatched in the first place.
He said: “For the past 20 years, the regime’s effort to suppress the truth and eliminate any efforts to bring democracy and freedom to Iran has been brutally, but unsuccessfully sustained. The regime has killed dissidents. It has not killed their quest for freedom.”
Ridge advised that the regime thought it would get away with this because there is a long history of them evading justice. He said the verdict should be applauded, but that the regime must face the downgrading of diplomatic relations as well as its Intelligence Ministry being labelled as terrorists.
He said: “These countries and their leaders should align themselves with the hopes of the Iranian people for freedom. I would call on them to recognize publicly the National Council of Resistance in Iran as the alternative to the existing regime… It’s the ultimate condemnation of their action.”
This feeling was echoed by Michèle de Vaucouleurs, Member of the French National Assembly, among others.
Gianna Gancia, Member of the European Parliament representing North-West Italy, said: “We need a stronger policy against the threatening activities of the Iranian regime in Europe. We in Europe need to be firm against the actions of the Iranian regime. The time has come to downgrade diplomatic relations with Iran. We should withdraw our ambassadors from Iran.”
Patrick Kennedy, a former Member of the US House of Representatives, called Thursday February 4, 2021, “historic” and a “a turning point”, saying that it was time to face the truth by either calling the regime out for its abuses or closing down the embassies en-masse.
He said: “It’s time to call Iran for what it is: a terrorist state. It’s time to expel their diplomats. It’s time that we have a new Iran, that we support the NCRI, we support the 10-point plan of Madam Rajavi, and that we support a new day for all Iranians who can finally be freed of this terrorist regime who terrorizes not only Iranians but the whole world.”
While UK MP Steve McCabe said that the Iranian regime “must also be held accountable” after the trial exposed how they use their embassies for terrorism, citing that Assadi didn’t deny the charges but rather tried to escape punishment using his diplomatic status.
He said: “That’s not how a normal government operates. These are the actions of a pariah state… Terrorists are terrorists, no matter how they dress or call themselves. And they cannot represent legitimate governments, and cannot negotiate with legitimate governments.”
McCabe called for tougher action on the regime, including reduced diplomatic relations.
Jean-Michel Clément, a member of the National Assembly of France, said: “It was essential that justice was served and diplomacy was kept out of this decision. This is not the end of a fight, it’s the first page of a new book. It should send a strong signal to European diplomacy, especially French diplomacy. The Iranian regime is a criminal system, not a political system.”
Finnish MP Kimmo Sasi urged European Union foreign ministers to condemn the regime’s terrorism and expel all agents of the regime from their countries, as well as levying sanctions on the IRGC, in order to show that they are serious about fighting for human rights.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “In 2018, I attended the NCRI’s Free Iran rally for the first time… It was one of the largest and most impressive events I’ve ever participated in. We did not know then, that Iranian government agents were planning to disrupt that event through terrorism and murder… We did not know that then. But we would not have been surprised.”
He further explained that the Iranian regime is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and that many of its crimes are levied against the Resistance, so he encouraged the Resistance to fight on because they are winning and victory is within grasp.
Former US National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones agreed with this, saying that the regime took this risk because they needed to strike at the Resistance and discourage support for them in Iran.
He said: “The Iranian regime has been engaged in acts of terrorism for over 40 years, but this is the first time a diplomat has been caught red-handed. It is clear that the entire regime, including Zarif, was involved. It is now time to end our conciliatory approach toward this regime and adopt a much firmer policy. This is a regime that is taking its last breaths.”
Jones also called for the closing of embassies, downgrading of diplomatic relations, designation of the IRGC and Intelligence Ministry, and the holding accountable of the mullahs who order the attack.
He said: “We should stand with the Iranian people in their desire for change by supporting the democratic resistance. The time has come for decisive action.”
Former Norwegian MP Lars Rise went further by calling on all European leaders to send out an arrest warrant for Zarif, alongside all the other suggestions made by other participants in the conference.
He said: “This [action] shows the regime is desperate. The regime has committed terrorist acts for many years. This is the first time a diplomat has been caught in the act. The evidence was so overwhelming that the regime’s lawyers did not even deny them.”
Dr. Tahar Boumedra, the former chief of the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), praised the verdict, saying that it was not just Assadi who was convicted but the regime as a whole.
He urged the EU to amend its relationship with Iran and hold all the regime’s criminals accountable, especially in the case of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs, said: “International relations cannot be based on terrorism and blackmail. It is time to stop these terrorist activities.”
While Paulo Casaca, former Member of the European Parliament, said that now was the time to strengthen their efforts and get justice for all of the mullahs’ victims.
He said: “It is time to demand full investigation and prosecution of those in the leadership of the mullahs’ regime involved in these crimes. It is time for the people of Iran to live in peace and dignity.”
While John Baird, the former Foreign Minister of Canada, called for justice for the NCRI and Rajavi and all of those at the event who were at risk of dying.
British MP David Jones said: “Today’s verdict puts an end to the false narrative that the terrorist actions of the regime are the work of hardliners or rogue elements within the regime. Assadi was an accredited diplomat working for Zarif. The UK’s Home Secretary should consider urgently proscribing the IRGC. The EU’s conciliatory policy towards the regime has emboldened the regime to believe it can get away with terrorist acts against its opponents on European soil.”
Linda Chavez, the former White House Director of Public Liaison and US expert to the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, said that this attack was an effort by the regime to meet dissent with bombs.
She said: “Their goal, obviously, was to assassinate Madame Rajavi who the Iranian regime views as the major threat to the regime. But they also would have inflicted mass casualties with scores of people possibly having been killed, or at the very least injured.”
She urged the EU to end the regime’s terrorism in Europe by rooting out the network of agents posing as diplomats.
Robert Torricelli, a former US Senator, said that the debate over Iran’s involvement in terrorism is over, now that it has been established as fact that the regime intended to murder Madam Rajavi and anyone else at the rally who was advocating for democracy.
He said: “[The terrorists] did not act alone. Indeed, interestingly, they never even pleaded innocence. All they were arguing is that they shouldn’t be tried because they were diplomats. They didn’t claim they were not terrorists. They did not claim they were not trying to commit murder. They claimed there were diplomats. Well, their pleas have been rejected.”
He said that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif may not have been tried but he is still guilty and must be apprehended and tried along with the rest of the regime. This must also include the designation of Zarif and the Foreign Ministry as terrorists.
Struan Stevenson, former Member of the European Parliament for Scotland and a plaintiff at the trial, called the verdict a “great victory” and “huge morale booster”, before encouraging the world not to return to “business as usual”.
He said: “The regime’s arch-criminal Ali Khamenei and his President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Intelligence Minister Mahmood Alavi ordered the spying, the assassinations and the bomb plot, and they must be held to account for their terrorist actions.”
He called the appeasement policy “dead in the water” and said that the EU-Iran relationship must be completely revaluated.
Martin Patzelt, Member of the Bundestag Human Rights Commission in Germany, said: “For too long Europe has tolerated the abuse of diplomatic status in Europe promoted by the Iranian regime. Germany seems to be at the centre of the Iranian regime’s terrorist actions. So-called Iranian diplomats have been guiding the terrorist apparatus of the regime in Germany.”
Ambassador Robert Joseph, the former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, said that the terror plot was a desperate ploy by the regime, which has “lost all legitimacy with the people of Iran”.
He said: “The religious dictatorship has squandered the wealth of the Iranian nation through its brutal repression of those seeking a democratic Iran, including the mass murders of more than 100,000 of its own citizens from the 1980s until the present, and through now, it’s proven direct acts of terrorism in Europe and around the globe.”
Joseph called for those who has committed crimes against humanity to be held accountable, especially those who ordered this attack. He called on governments to end their appeasement policy and get tough with Iran to protect its people and the global community from the regime’s terrorism.
He said: “For the Biden administration, the guilty verdict of Assadi and his accomplices should weigh heavily in his review of Iran policy. This active state terrorism should have a sobering effect… If the leaders of free societies fail to hold the perpetrators responsible, including at the highest levels in Tehran, it will only encourage more terrorist attacks and make us complicit in them.”
Matthew Offord, leading member of the British Committee for Iran Freedom who attended the rally described the regime’s plan as “similar to ISIS” and warned that the true perpetrators were still free in Iran.
He said: “While the small fish was caught, the time has come to go after the bigger fish. The UK and EU must proscribe without delay the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).”