Dissident detained after trying to torch diplomatic car outside Iranian embassy in London

Iranian-born Sam Parsa detained in secure hospital for attempted arson

Sam Parsa was detained in hospital after an attempted arson attack near Iran's London embassy. Metropolitan Police
Sam Parsa was detained in hospital after an attempted arson attack near Iran's London embassy. Metropolitan Police

A former political prisoner who stuffed a bottle of flammable liquid into the exhaust pipe of an Iranian diplomatic car in London has been detained indefinitely in a secure hospital.

Sam Parsa, 60, was captured on security camera putting the plastic bottle containing a rag soaked in diesel and petrol into the car’s exhaust in the early hours of September 5, 2018.

The dissident planned for it to catch fire when someone started the car, which was parked close to Iran’s embassy in London. Experts confirmed it was a viable device.

The bottle went undiscovered for 30 hours until it was spotted by a contractor who raised the alarm. Parsa was tracked down through his DNA, mobile phone data and analysis of security footage.

Iranian-born Parsa, who sought asylum in 1990, spent seven years as a political prisoner in Iran. The central criminal court in London heard he was a member of the Iranian People’s Fedaian, a Marxist opposition group.

He said he was tortured in prison in an attempt to make him identify other members of the group. "On five occasions I was whipped. I went unconscious. They also hung me from my hands,” he told the Old Bailey.

"They poured boiling water on my arms and legs. On some occasions they would push my head under water to try to make me confess."

He has a history of mental health problems and was seen acting suspiciously outside the home of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and on Downing Street, the home of the UK prime minister, both in London.

In December, Parsa was found guilty of attempted arson with intent to endanger life. Sentencing, Judge Mark Dennis on Thursday ordered Parsa, of north London, to be detained in hospital indefinitely,

The judge said the dissident was a risk to people with whom he disagreed or opposed for political reasons. He said Parsa had an entrenched hatred of the Iranian leadership.

"It was pure chance that the embassy car was not used before the discovery of the incendiary device," he said.

Cdr Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said Parsa’s recklessness "could have endangered lives”.

Updated: May 21, 2021 07:02 PM


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