Trio lose appeals over Iran terror attack plot

Antwerp court upholds guilty verdicts against three accomplices of intelligence chief Assadollah Assadi

Protesters gather outside the court in Antwerp during the trio's November appeal. EPA

Three accomplices of an Iranian intelligence chief who masterminded a botched attack on a conference of dissidents in France on Tuesday lost their appeals against conviction for the parts they played in the bomb plot.

The trio included a husband and wife, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, who claimed they had been pressured by Iranian intelligence services to plant an explosive device at the meeting, which took place on the outskirts of Paris in June 2018.

The bombing attempt failed after a joint operation by German, French and Belgian police led to the arrest of the couple in Brussels and the recovery of the explosive device from their car.

They had been on their way from their home in Antwerp to the conference organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which was attended by European and American politicians including Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.

Undercover officers watched as the couple were handed the explosive device at a pizza restaurant in Luxembourg by the planner, Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat living in Vienna.

Assadi was also captured and sentenced to 20 years in jail in February last year. He was the only one of the group who did not appeal against the verdict.

An appeals court in Antwerp on Tuesday rejected the appeals of Saadouni and Naami and that of a third man involved, Mehrdad Arefani.

Saadouni, Naami face 18 years in prison and and Arefani 17, court documents show.

The convictions were an embarrassment for Iran, which claimed that Assadi was protected by diplomatic immunity.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes confirmed that she and her Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, had discussed the issue of Assadi’s imprisonment but she ruled out a potential prisoner swap in response to a question from a Belgian MP in April.

Robert Torricelli, a former US senator who attended the June 2018 event, said that the Iranian regime must face harsher sanctions due to its role in international terrorism, including the expulsion of its diplomats from European embassies.

“The international community needs to take note,” he told an online conference. “While there is justice, this is incomplete justice.”

Updated: May 10, 2022, 4:18 PM