The trial began in Antwerp today of four people accused of taking part in a failed terrorist attack near Paris in 2018 aimed at an Iranian opposition group.
The accused are a couple from Wilrijk in Antwerp, Nasimeh N. and Amir S., as well as Iranian diplomat Assadollah A. stationed in Vienna, and his contact person in Belgium Mehrdad A.
“We are facing today a case of state-organised terrorism,” said opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Another group, calling itself the People’s Mujaheddin or MEK, was the target of the attack on its offices in Villepinte outside Paris.
A bomb placed in a car belong to the Wilrijk couple was discovered and disarmed before the explosion could take place. It had been timed to go off during a mass meeting of resistance members.
Members of the opposition claim the attack was backed by the Iranian regime itself.
“The independent and professional investigation by the Belgian authorities was commendable,” said NCRI president Maryam Rajavi before the trial began.
“The investigation has shown that this is a matter of state-organised terrorism. As well as today’s defendants, it is also time for the Iranian leaders to be brought to justice,” she said. According to the NCRI, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei personally authorised the attack.
The opening of the trial was accompanied by a large police presence, with strict checks on anyone wishing to enter the building. Police with sniffer dogs were patrolling the long queues that had formed outside the building.
Dimitri de Béco, representing the diplomat, explained that his client would not be attending the trial.
“He is represented by his lawyer, as is his right. My client is of the opinion that as a diplomat he enjoys immunity and therefore cannot be convicted by the criminal court.”
According to a report by Belgian intelligence, the materials for making the bomb were carried by the diplomat himself on a commercial flight of Austrian Airlines from Tehran to Vienna in his diplomatic bag, which is not subject to search.
Meanwhile, Tom Sauer, professor of international politics at the university of Antwerp, argued on VRT radio this morning that the recent news that Iran is preparing the execution of Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian medical specialist and visiting professor at the Free University of Brussels, could be linked to the start of the trial.
“For a long time there has been no progress in the Djalali case, and now there suddenly is – in the negative sense – when that trial against four Iranians in our country starts,” he said.
“We have to be careful with such statements, but it could be a signal from Iran to our country to say, ‘Watch out, we are holding someone here who may be of interest to you. We have a bargaining chip, so make sure you don’t punish our four compatriots too hard.”