- This is the first time that a diplomat in Europe has been tried for direct involvement in terrorism.
- The Iranian Foreign Ministry protested, demanding his immediate release, citing diplomatic immunity.
- In recent years, Iran's possible involvement in some terrorist operations abroad has damaged the country's relations with Western Europe.
An Iranian diplomat, said to be a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic, will stand trial in Belgium on Wednesday on charges of planning a terrorist operation in Europe. The diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested in Germany two years ago.
This is the first time that a diplomat in Europe has been tried for direct involvement in terrorism. Assadi was an employee of the Iranian embassy in Vienna. He was arrested in July 2018 while traveling in Germany. He was handed over to Belgian authorities after a Belgian prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for him the day before.
Belgian police suspected that Asadi had traveled to Germany to deliver explosives to an Iranian-Belgian couple living in Antwerp. The couple was arrested by Belgian police, and half a kilo of powerful TATP explosives were found in their car, along with a detonator and an explosive system.
The Belgian media mentioned the couple as Amir and Nasim Saadouni. They have been charged with “planning a terrorist operation and preparing a terrorist attack.” Belgian security police have accused a couple of heading to Villepinte, near Paris, to carry out a terrorist operation at a National Council of Resistance rally.
Accordingly, an arrest warrant was issued for Asadi. He was arrested when he stopped at a gas station on a German highway. He is said to have been on his way back to his residence in Austria.
The Invalidity of “Diplomatic Immunity”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran protested the arrest of Assadollah Asadi, and demanded his immediate release due to his diplomatic immunity. Asadi is registered as the third secretary of the Iranian embassy in Vienna.
However, German judicial officials declared that his immunity was valid only within the Austrian border, and he was extradited to Belgium.
Fourth Person Arrested
According to the mass media, in connection with the terrorist operation in Villepinte, near Belgium, another man, named Mehrdad Arefani, was arrested, suspected of collaborating with the operation.
In recent years, Iran’s possible involvement in some terrorist operations abroad has damaged the country’s relations with France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
The Islamic Republic has so far denied participating in any terrorist operations outside of Iran, and has considered the publication of such news as a conspiracy of its enemies and opponents.
Ali Fallahian, the former head of the MOIS, in an interview said:
“The ministry needs cover for its works to collect information both inside the country and outside. It is obvious that we don’t send an agent to Germany or America and for example say, ok, I am an agent of the information ministry and I am here to collect information, please give that to me. Obviously, he would work under the cover of business or other jobs including reporters. You know many of our reporters are actually ministry agents.”