Iranian spymaster Assadollah Assadi’s accomplices appeal against bomb plot convictions

Trio played key roles in state-backed plot to bomb a dissidents’ rally near Paris

Demonstrators gather in Antwerp, Belgium, where three people convicted of plotting to bomb a rally by the Iranian opposition launched an appeal. EPA

Three accomplices of an Iranian diplomat jailed for 20 years for plotting to blow up a dissidents’ rally in France appealed against their convictions on Wednesday.

A married couple, who were given the job of planting the bomb at a rally near Paris, and a third agent were jailed for between 15 and 18 years for their roles in the plot.

The diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, a senior spymaster in Europe for Tehran, abandoned his appeal against conviction in May, saying he wanted to play no further part in the “political” process.

Assadi brought explosives for the Paris plot on a plane from Iran and handed over a device to the husband-and-wife team Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, who were living in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

They were arrested on the outskirts of Brussels as they headed to set the bomb at a conference centre at Villepinte in June 2018 and the attack was foiled.

Assadollah Assadi, a senior spymaster in Europe for Tehran, abandoned his appeal against conviction in May. Photo: US Embassy Iran 

The target was a rally attended by 25,000 people of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) which campaigns for the overthrow of the Tehran regime and is backed by prominent US and European politicians.

Saadouni and Naami are appealing against their convictions at Antwerp’s court of appeal along with Mehrdad Arefani, another member of the Iranian intelligence service, who was described as the eyes and ears of Assadi on the ground. Arefani was jailed for 17 years.

Saadouni, who was jailed for 15 years, has claimed previously that he was coerced into taking part in the plot and had co-operated with authorities as soon as he was arrested.

Naami, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison, claimed that she did not know the package contained a bomb.

But prosecutors said they knew what they were doing and had negotiated sums of money over a long period of time during their work for Assadi.

The appeal is expected to conclude on Thursday with the verdict at a later date.

The NCRI unsuccessfully called for widespread sanctions to be imposed on Iran and the expulsion of diplomats from Europe after the verdicts.

“It is time for the European Union and the international community to take practical steps to confront the mullahs' terrorism,” said Shahin Gobadi of the NCRI.

Updated: November 17, 2021, 3:56 PM