Iranian ‘terrorist’ diplomat fears repatriation

BRUSSELS: Concerns are being raised in Belgium that an Iranian diplomat serving a 20-year sentence for plotting a bombing outside Paris could be repatriated in a possible prisoner swap.

An opposition lawmaker and lawyers for an Iranian dissident group say a bilateral Belgian-Iranian treaty due to be voted on this week would pave the way for the removal of Assadollah Assadi, convicted of terrorism charges and sentenced in February 2021.

The text of the treaty “is adapted to Mr. Assadi”, declared the deputy Georges Dallemand.

He predicted that the Belgian government would present any release of Assadi as a “humanitarian operation”, a business for a Swedish-Iranian academic, Ahmadreza Djalali, who is being held in Iran on a death sentence. Djalali taught at a Brussels university. The issue has also caught the attention of US lawmakers.

One of them, Randy Weber, a Republican representative in Texas, tweeted that he was “shocked to learn that the Belgian government has reached an agreement with the world’s first state sponsor of terrorism and plans to return terrorists Iranians in Iran to plot”. more terrorist acts”.

He called on other members and women in Congress to join him in sounding the alarm over the text of the treaty before the Belgian parliament. A spokesman for Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said “there is no connection with Mr Djalali’s case”.

He added that the minister would “explain his views” to parliament on Tuesday. The spokesperson declined to give further details.

Assadi was convicted of supplying explosives for a planned June 30, 2018 bomb attack on an event outside Paris organized by the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) splinter group.

Belgian police foiled the 2018 attack by intercepting a car carrying the bomb, acting on information collected by several European intelligence services.

Attached to the Iranian embassy in Austria, Assadi was arrested in Germany where his request for diplomatic immunity was rejected.

Investigators who conducted a two-year investigation determined that it was an Iranian agent working under diplomatic cover. Belgian justice found him guilty of attempted “terrorist” murder and “participation in the activities of a terrorist group”. Assadi’s sentence was confirmed in May 2021 when he chose not to appeal. Tehran protested his sentence.

The NCRI, whose nucleus is made up of a militant organization known as the MEK, is a civil party in Assadi’s trial. His lawyers said the treaty was intended to allow Assadi to return to Iran. A copy of the treaty shows it was signed on March 11 by the Belgian justice ministry and Iran’s ambassador to Belgium.

He asserts that “the best way” to strengthen cooperation with Iran in the area of ​​justice was to allow convicts to serve their sentences in their country of origin.

It also allows each jurisdiction to pardon returned convicts or commute their sentence. Debate on the treaty was due to begin on Tuesday, with parliament due to vote on its adoption on Thursday.

Posted in Dawn, July 5, 2022

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