4th Feb 2020 - In a historic turn of events, a court in Antwerp, Belgium, sentenced Iran’s incarcerated diplomat-terrorist Assadollah Assadi to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges. This is the first time a diplomat on duty receives such a sentence. The court also sentenced Assadi’s co-conspirators, Nasimeh Naami, Mehrdad Arefani and Amir Saadouni to 18, 17, and 15 years in prison respectively. The four convicts had attempted to bomb the annual “Free Iran” gathering in 2018.
Despite numerous attempts to claim his diplomatic immunity, Assadi's diplomatic immunity was waived by the judge who ruled that at the time that Assadi was arrested, he was not in Austria where he was based as a diplomat and so it could not be applied in this case.
This gathering was attended by thousands of Iranian communities from across the world and also prominent political and human rights figures and activists including AWYAF volunteers.
Based on the undeniable evidence and over two-and-a-half years of investigations, the prosecutors concluded that the 2018 bomb plot was not Assadi’s personal initiative but rather an act of state-sponsored terrorism. The evidence against them prove that the bomb had been flown from Iran and handed directly to Assadi from Iran but was never checked in security because of his diplomatic position.
At the same time as the sentencing, an online Zoom event was attended by the same associations and figures who were present in the 2018 gathering in Paris. The general consensus among many speakers was that Iran's embassies across Europe should be shut down because, as the trial showed, they are used so that the regime can misuse diplomatic immunity to carry out crimes. A number of British Members of Parliament attended the online event and gave their views on the sentence.
Steve McCabe, British MP for Birmingham Selly Oak said at the event, "Assadi’s masters in Tehran must also be held accountable. This trial has exposed for all to see how the Iranian authorities show contempt for diplomatic conventions by using their embassies to carry out terrorist operations. That’s not how a normal government operates. These are the actions of a pariah state. Assadi did not deny the charges, instead he asserted that the diplomatic status meant he was above the law and should go free. He and his co-conspirators have received the sentence justice demands. There should be no backdoor deals, no swaps for innocent hostages."
Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon also attended the online event, saying, "I personally attended the annual gathering in Paris for a free and democratic Iran in previous years...The decision to launch this terrorist attack was taken by the regime’s Supreme National Security Council headed by President Hassan Rouhani and approved by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei."
David Jones MP, "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 (Iranian regime's Minister for Foreign Affairs)."