Belgium poised to return terrorist Assadollah Assadi to Iran in possible prisoner swap

The Iranian was sentenced to jail over a foiled bomb attack at a Paris rally

Belgium is debating a treaty with Tehran that could lead to Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi being sent home to serve the rest of his jail sentence.
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The Belgian Parliament is due to debate on Tuesday whether to ratify a proposed treaty with Iran that could allow an Iranian convicted of terrorism in Belgium to be sent back to Tehran.

Assadollah Assadi was found guilty of attempted terrorism by a court in Antwerp in February 2021 over a foiled bomb plot to attack a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Paris in June 2018.

He has been serving a 20-year sentence in Belgium and his case has been linked to the continued detention of dual citizens in Iran.

The NCRI and politician Georges Dallemagne say the bilateral Belgium-Iran treaty due to be voted on this week would pave the way for Assadi to be sent home.

The treaty's text "is tailored to Mr Assadi", said Mr Dallemagne.

He predicted that the Belgian government will present any release of Assadi as a "humanitarian operation", a trade for Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, who is being held in Iran under a death sentence and used to teach at a university in Brussels.

The treaty was signed on March 11 by the Belgian Justice Ministry and the Iranian ambassador to Belgium.

It says that "the best way" to boost co-operation with Iran in matters of justice was to allow convicts to complete their prison sentences in their home countries.

It also allows that each jurisdiction might pardon the returned convicts or commute their sentences.

The full parliament is due to vote on whether to adopt the treaty on Thursday.

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told AFP "there is no connection with Mr Djalali's case".

Assadi was found guilty of supplying explosives for a planned bomb attack on an event outside Paris held by the dissident NCRI group on June 30, 2018.

Belgian police thwarted the attack when they intercepted a car carrying the bomb, acting on information gathered by several European intelligence services.

Assadi had brought the explosives on a plane from Iran and handed over a device to a husband-and-wife bombing team after a meeting at a Pizza Hut branch in Luxembourg City.

He kept in contact with them until they were arrested as they drove to the rally attended by an estimated 25,000 people in Villepinte, on the outskirts of Paris.

Attached to Iran's embassy in Austria, Assadi was arrested in Germany where his claim for diplomatic immunity was denied.

He was extradited to Belgium to stand trial in Antwerp, where the bombers had lived and worked for years after claiming to have been Iranian regime dissidents.

Assadi refused to attend the trial but became the first Iranian official to be convicted of terrorism in Europe since Iran's 1979 revolution.

Investigators who conducted a two-year probe found that was an Iranian agent working under diplomatic cover.

The Belgian court convicted him of attempted "terrorist" murder and "participating in the activities of a terrorist group".

Assadi's sentence was upheld in May 2021 when he opted not to appeal. Tehran has protested against his conviction.

Updated: July 05, 2022, 11:07 AM
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