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The telegraph

The Iranian diplomat is skipping the trial in Belgium over failed bomb attacks

An Iranian diplomat refused to appear on the first day of his trial in Belgium on Friday where he and three others were charged with conspiracy to bomb an Iranian opposition meeting in exile in France attended by five British MPs. Antwerp prosecutors accuse Vienna-based diplomat Assadolah Assadi and three co-defendants of conspiring to attack a rally by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in 2018. Labor's Roger Godsiff and Conservative MPs Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Sir David Amess and Theresa Villiers attended the event in Villepinte near Paris, where US President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave the keynote address. "Had the conspiracy gone undetected, it would have been Iran's largest state-sponsored terrorist attack," said Blackman, one of 25 civil parties in the case. "It is time to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its oppression and its homeland and now in Europe," he told The Telegraph. The trial is the first time that an EU country has prosecuted an Iranian official for terrorism. "I think the words 'brave little Belgium' are perfectly appropriate today," said Rik Vanreusel, a lawyer representing those attending the rally. "We are one of the few countries that have dared to put such politically sensitive issues into an appropriate perspective." Mr Assadi, 48, denies the charges and has not cooperated with investigators. Lawyer Dimitri De Beco said his client had claimed diplomatic immunity. He was arrested while on vacation in Germany, where prosecutors said the immunity had no application. The plaintiffs' lawyers argue that diplomatic immunity cannot be used to evade prosecution if the charge is terrorist, with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. According to a police report received by Reuters, Assadi warned authorities in March that unidentified groups could retaliate if found guilty. Tehran dismisses the charges against it as the "false flag" of the NCRI, which it describes as a terrorist organization. French officials said Mr. Assadi, who was the third adviser to the Iranian embassy in Iran, was ordered from Tehran to carry out the attack. According to France, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence was responsible for the conspiracy and subsequently expelled an Iranian diplomat. The Belgian authorities said he gave a Belgian couple of Iranian descent half a kilogram of explosives and a detonator that they believe brought to Vienna on a commercial flight from Tehran. The explosives were found in the car of the couple Nassimeh Naami (36) and Amir Saadouni (40) when they were arrested in Brussels in a joint operation with Belgian, French and German security services. You are charged along with another alleged co-conspirator, Mehrdad Arefani, 57. Her lawyers deny that they planned to kill anyone at the rally, which the NCRI said an estimated 25,000 people attended, including a delegation of 35 British people. The NCRI is the political wing of the People's Mojahedin of Iran, also known as the MEK, which supports the overthrow of the Iranian government. The group carried out a series of attacks against the government in the 1980s. The MEK was removed from the blacklists of EU and US terrorists in 2009 and 2012, respectively, after renouncing violence and engaging in intensive lobbying work. The trial, which may lead to a verdict by the end of the month, could put a strain on Iran-EU relations. The 2015 nuclear deal promised to improve relations between Iran and the West, but European countries later accused Tehran of multiple attacks against opponents abroad. These included two killers in the Netherlands in 2015 and 2017, as well as a failed assassination attempt in Denmark in which Tehran was all involved.

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