An Iranian diplomat has been accused of plotting to bomb a huge French political event attended by President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani — but invoked immunity to avoid attending the start of his trial Friday.
Assadollah Assadi, 48, is accused of masterminding the attempted attack on a June 2018 meeting in Paris of one of Iran’s exiled opposition movements, which was attended by politicians from the UK and US, including Trump allies.
It was only thwarted after Belgian police stopped a Mercedes allegedly on the way to France carrying 550 grams of the so-called “Mother of Satan” TATP explosive and a detonator.
Lawyers for one of the alleged targets, the exiled Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group, or MEK, insisted the plot was on “orders from Tehran,” which “authorized the death of thousands of people.”
At least 25,000 people were in the French town of Villepinte, north of Paris, that day, officials said.
A British politician who was there, MP Bob Blackman, told The Sun that the bombing could have started a new world war.
“The US would undeniably have declared war on Iran — and it was only because the plot was foiled, World War Three was averted,” Blackman told the UK paper.
Rudy Giuliani speaks during the Conference In Support Of Freedom and Democracy In Iran in 2018.Anthony Devlin/Getty Images
Assadi is one of four Iranians facing up to 20 years in prison on charges of “attempted terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist group” for the plot.
But he refused to attend the opening day of the trial in Belgium Friday, insisting that “the court is not competent to judge him” due to his diplomatic status, his lawyer, Dimitri de Beco, said.
Assadi “let me know he has the fullest respect for these judges but as he considers that he should benefit from immunity, they are not allowed to judge him,” de Beco told Reuters.
The British delegation poses for a photo during a meeting in Paris of one of Iran’s exiled opposition movements.Anthony Devlin/Getty Images
Lawyers for MEK claimed — without offering evidence — that Assadi was ordered not to attend by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. They insisted that diplomatic immunity does not equate to “impunity.”
Because he was arrested in Germany and his diplomatic accreditation was in Austria, Belgian prosecutors believe they have the right to proceed, Agence France-Presse said. The judge said he would raise procedural issues during a second hearing set for next week.
A lawyer for another group at the rally, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), called it “an unprecedented, historic trial,” AFP said.
Attendees, including Rudy Giuliani, pose for a photo during a meeting in Paris of one of Iran’s exiled opposition movements.Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP via Getty Images
“It’s the first time that, symbolically, the mullahs’ regime is in the dock and will be judged through the case against its so-called diplomats,” William Bourdon said outside court.
Assadi did not cooperate with investigators and denies all charges.
The three others on trial all appeared in court. They are the couple accused of driving the explosives — Nasimeh Naami, 36, and Amir Saadouni, 40 — as well as a Belgium-based Iranian poet, Mehrdad Arefani, 57, who was allegedly in frequent telephone contact with Assadi.
Police officers stand guard before a trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assad in Antwerp, Belgium, today.Johanna Geron/Reuters
The trial is scheduled to take two days, Friday and then Thursday next week, before adjourning for a decision expected early next year, AFP said.
Iran has denied having a hand in the plot.
With Post wires