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Belgian court postpones verdict in Iran diplomat case

By AFP - Jan 17,2021 - Last updated at Jan 17,2021

BRUSSELS — A Belgian court on Saturday postponed until next month the verdict in the trial of an Iranian diplomat accused of plotting to bomb an exiled opposition group’s rally in France.

The case has caused tensions between Iran and several European countries, and shone an uncomfortable light on Tehran’s international activities.

Assadollah Assadi, a 48-year-old diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of plotting to target the rally in Villepinte, outside Paris, on June 30, 2018.

The verdict was initially due on January 22 but the Antwerp court deferred it to February 4, without giving any reason for the delay.

Assadi denies any involvement in the plot, which was foiled by security services.

He has refused to appear at Antwerp Criminal Court, where he is on trial with three alleged accomplices, all of whom say they are innocent.

Lawyers for Nasimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni — a Belgian-Iranian couple arrested in possession of a bomb in their car on their way to France — claimed the explosive was not powerful enough to kill.

The lawyer for the third alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, described by the prosecution as a relative of Assadi, has denied his involvement and also pleaded for his acquittal.

Several well-known international figures — including Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to US President Donald Trump — were at the event in Villepinte.

It was organised by the National Council of Resistance in Iran, a group which includes the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK).

The MEK is considered a “terrorist group” in Iran, and has been banned there since 1981.

Prosecutors are seeking an 18-year jail term for the couple found with the explosives, and 15 for Arefani.

In October 2018, France accused Iran’s ministry of intelligence of being behind the plot. Tehran has strongly denied the charges.

 

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