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Iranian diplomat sentenced to prison for bomb plot on Iranian opposition group

The Iranian government strongly condemned the trial. The bomb plot targeted the controversial National Council of Resistance of Iran.

An Iranian diplomat has been sentenced to prison by a Belgian court in connection with a bomb plot against an Iranian opposition group in France.

Assadolah Assadi received a 20-year sentence Thursday in Antwerp. Assadi worked for the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, Austria. He was found guilty of attempting to bomb a National Council of Resistance of Iran rally near Paris that was held in 2018. French authorities said he acted on orders from Iranian intelligence, Reuters reported.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran is a coalition of Iranian dissident groups that seeks to overthrow the Islamic Republic. The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq is the main group in the coalition. The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq is sometimes called a "cult" and is criticized by other Iranian opposition groups and the Iranian government. It has a presence in Iranian diaspora communities, including in Europe.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned Assadi’s sentencing, saying it constituted a “blatant violation of international law.” Iran claimed Assadi should not have been arrested because he had diplomatic immunity; European officials, however, said he was arrested in Germany and that his diplomatic immunity only was in effect in Austria. Iran said the charges had been trumped up, and also blamed the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq for the ruling, saying the decision was made with "influence of the atmosphere that has been created by the hostile … terrorist group on Europe’s soil,” the state-run Press TV reported.

Three Iranians who had had dual Belgian citizenship were convicted along with Assadi and sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison. It was the first terrorism trial for an Iranian official in Europe since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979, according to Reuters.

Iranian diplomats have run afoul of European authorities before. In October, Denmark summoned the Iranian ambassador following reports of the Iranian Embassy’s alleged involvement in coercive divorces there. In 2018, the Danish government accused Iran of involvement in the attempted killing of an Arab Iranian separatist leader in the city of Ringsted.

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