Lawyer: Iran diplomat will not appeal bomb plot conviction

Rights groups urge release of detained Ugandan rights lawyer

BRUSSELS – An Iranian diplomat convicted of carrying out a foiled bomb attack on an exiled Iranian opposition group in France has ruled against the appeal on the verdict, his lawyer and a Belgian court said on Wednesday.

Assadollah Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this year for attempted terrorist murder and involvement in the activities of a terrorist organization after the Antwerp court denied his right to diplomatic immunity. Assadi previously worked at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, Austria.

Three other defendants, who were found by the court to belong to the same espionage network, were also found guilty and sentenced to long prison terms.

Assadi lawyer Dimitri de Beco told The Associated Press that he informed the appeals court during a preliminary hearing Wednesday that his client did not intend to challenge his conviction. Assadi’s verdict is now final while proceedings continue for the three other defendants who have appealed, said press magistrate Els De Brauwer.

Assadi. Those who refused to attend his trial and denied all charges do not recognize the position of the appellate court because they believe they should have been granted diplomatic immunity, lawyer de Beco said.

During the trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs and representatives of the exiled Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) alleged, without producing any evidence, that Assadi prepared the bomb plan on direct orders from the highest Iranian authorities. Tehran has denied being involved in the conspiracy.

MEW leader Maryam Rajavi reiterated claims Wednesday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved Assadi’s plan.

“The leaders of the regime, who have been responsible for exporting terrorism for four decades, must be brought to justice,” Rajavi said in a statement.

On June 30, 2018, Belgian police officers, who had been informed by intelligence services of a possible attack on the MEK’s annual meeting, stopped a couple traveling in a Mercedes car. In the couple’s luggage, officials said they found 550 grams of the unstable TATP explosive and a detonator.

The Belgian bomb disposal unit said the device was of professional quality and could have caused a significant explosion and panic in the crowd estimated at 25,000 people gathered for the meeting in the French city of Villepinte, north of Paris.

Assadi was arrested in Germany a day later and transferred to Belgium. Assadi was identified as the alleged “head of operations” of the planned attack and accused of having recruited the two years earlier.

The court ruled that Assadi was not entitled to diplomatic immunity as he was on vacation at the time of his arrest and not in Austria, where he was accredited.

Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press