The rally of the National Council of Resistance in Iran, Paris, France, June 30, 2018

A Belgian court has sentenced an Iranian diplomat to 20 years in prison for plotting to bomb an opposition rally outside Paris in June 2018.

A three-judge panel in Antwerp convicted Assadollah Assadi over the planning attack on the National Council of Resistance of Iran, led by Maryam Rajavi.

The NCRI is the political branch of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, which has sought the overthrow of the Islamic Republic since soon after the 1979 Revolution. It was banned in Iran in 1981, and was listed as a “terrorist” group by the European Union until 2009 and by the US until 2012.

Assadi was in Germany after the failed bombing and extradited after a court ruled that his immunity did not apply outside of Austria. He was not in court to hear the verdicts, having refused to appear at his trial.

The Belgian court ruled that Assadi did not have the right for immunity because he was not on diplomatic duty: “He was clearly going on vacation with his family. The defendant is being accused of planning a potentially deadly attack and smuggling an explosive device from Iran under diplomatic cover. We can hardly consider he was performing diplomatic acts.”

About 25,000 people attended the June 30, 2018 rally. Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was among the guests.

“This Would Have Caused Deaths”

Husband and wife Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami were intercepted by Belgian police on the way to the rally. They were sentenced to 15 and 18 years in jail respectively A fourth defendant was given a 17-year term.

The prosecution said Assadi brought the explosives for the plot on a commercial flight from Iran to Austria, and gave them to the Belgian-Iranian couple at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Luxembourg, two days before the rally. Assadi provided instructions on how to prepare, protect, and transport the device. In a notebook found in his car, there were details about attacks with other toxic materials.

Luc Potargent, the head of the three-judge panel, said in passing sentence:

To detonate this explosive at the conference would have caused deaths — because of the explosion and because of the chaos an explosion would have caused….

By planning this attack, they have made Iranian refugees that tried to find a safe haven in Europe feel unsafe. A serious punishment is appropriate. It was an attack to their freedom of speech.

Belgium’s state security officers said Assadi worked for Department 312, Iran’s directorate for internal security at the Intelligence and Security Ministry, and that he led a Europe-wide spying network.

The defendant warned in March that there might be retaliation by unidentified groups if he was convicted.