On Friday, March 4, the Court of Appeal of Antwerp in Belgium convened to re-evaluate the various dimensions of a terror plot carried out by the Iranian intelligence apparatus against the Iranian Resistance in 2018, that was eventually foiled by German, Belgian and French police which arrested a Vienna based Iranian diplomat and three of his accomplices. The terrorists were prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
On December 9, the court held hearings to examine reports by explosives experts’ findings on the technical aspects of the bomb made by the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) in Tehran, which a sleeper cell intended to detonate at the Free Iran Summit on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, near Paris.
At that hearing, two explosives experts from Germany and Belgium explained the components of the bomb that was brought by an Iranian intelligence officer, posing as a diplomatAssadollah Assadi, from Tehran to Vienna and eventually to Luxembourg, where he handed it over to his operatives. The experts confirmed that the material and building technique of the bomb was done professionally to inflict maximum casualties upon detonation. The bomb would set off a strong explosive wave, turning every hard object in its surroundings into deadly shrapnel and maximizing the death toll.
The Belgian expert said that the blast radius of the bomb was 53 meters, causing additional damage in an area of nearly nine thousand square meters. This bomb was made in Tehran and designed to pass through bomb detectors.
Following these statements, the lawyers of the convicted bombers who were working for Assadollah Assadi, namely Nasimeh Na’ami, Amir Saadouni, and Mehrdad Arefani, tried to undermine the technical accounts and downplay the strength of the bomb. Friday’s court session was held to examine their objections.
Assadi, the mastermind of the plot and the main defendant in this case, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Court of Antwerp, refused to plead for an appeal and is currently spending time behind bars.
The meeting was attended by the lawyers of the Iranian Resistance, Georges-Henri Beauthier and Rik Vanreusel, as well as representatives of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), who were among the plaintiffs in this case.
Supporters of the NCRI also gathered in front of the Antwerp Palace of Justice, chanting slogans against the Iranian regime’s terrorism and called on European governments to close its embassies that have acted as centers of espionage and terrorism.
At the hearing, the prosecutor again defended his indictment, explaining that the bomb had been planted both to intimidate and kill. He stressed that regardless of the actual weight of the explosive, it would have killed many people like chaos, stampede and subsequent injuries from such a blast would have increased the death toll.
The prosecutor also reiterated that the bomb had targeted many children who were present at the meeting. The prosecutor explained that had the bomb been planted under a chair, its fragments would have been more dangerous and the intensity of the explosion would have been higher. The prosecutor stated that even if the bomb had exploded outside the hall, it was still dangerous and could be deadly.
Representing the NCRI as well as the plaintiffs, Mr. Rik Vanreusel stated that while the defendants’ lawyer is trying to downplay the crime, the actual case amounts to a case of international terrorism. Pointing to Tehran’s long history of terrorism against its opponents, he stressed that the perpetrators were all secret agents of the regime, rather than ordinary employees who were paid for their work, thereby dismissing the claim entirely.
Mr. Vanreusel added that the bomb was professionally designed, built, transferred and the plot was carried out by the MOIS directly. He accentuated the report of the bomb experts and argued that since the attack was thwarted, the defendants are trying to exploit their failure to get a lighter sentence.
“These people who claim of being unaware are like Russian soldiers who pose innocently when they are seized in Ukraine. They argue they did not know they had come to kill,” Mr. Rik Vanreusel said.
“Had the operation been successful, it would have been the deadliest terror attack in Europe in terms of the number of casualties,” said Georges-Henri Beauthier.
The defendants’ attorneys repeated some of their previous statements. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the hearing was the comments by Mehrdad Arefani. The Iranian agent, who had posed as an atheist poet and a supporter of the Iranian Resistance to infiltrate and manage the terror attack, denied all connections with Assadi and the MOIS. He claimed in court that he was not “Assadi’s eyes and ears.” But some of his text messages to Assadi, have been recorded and filed in court, undermining his denial.
The Antwerp Court of Appeals will issue its verdict on April 20.