An Iranian Diplomat, on trial for plotting a terror attack on an exiled Iranian opposition group, refused to turn up for his trial in Belgium on Friday.
Assadollah Assaidi was arrested from Germany, where he did not enjoy any immunity, but invoked his diplomatic immunity for the trial through his lawyer.
“My client asked me to represent him today, he let me know he has the fullest respect for these judges but as he considers that he should benefit from immunity, they are not allowed to judge him,” his lawyer, Dimitri de Beco, told reporters outside the court.
Belgium’s intelligence and security agency identified Assadi as an officer of Iran’s intelligence and security ministry who operated under cover at Iran’s embassy in Vienna.
Assadi allegedly worked for the ministry’s so-called Department 312, the directorate for internal security, which is on the European Union’s list of organizations regarded as terrorist.
The cross-border terror attack was planned in 2018 when Belgian authorities arrested a Belgian-Iranian couple driving from Antwerp with about 500 grams of TATP explosives and a detonator.
They were allegedly headed to a rally organized by the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) outside Paris.
Assadi and three others are on trial for the plot and may face up to 20 years of prison time if convicted by the Antwerp court. Assadi denies all charges against him.
The prosecutors claim that Assadi organized the plot with the backing of the Iranian State.
“The attack plan was conceived in the name of Iran and under its leadership. It was not a personal initiative by Assadi,” Jaak Raes, head of Belgium’s state security service (VSSE), told prosecutors in February.
Iran’s involvement in the case will lead to charges of State Terrorism and may result in further problems for Iran on the international stage.
“The Iran state conspires, threatens and carries on attacks and executions,” said lawyer Georges Henri Beauthier. “We have irrefutable proof that the Iranian state gave orders from Tehran and authorized the death of thousands of people.”
Iran on the other hand has dismissed the allegations of State Terrorism as a “false flag” stunt by the NCRI.
Iran has a history of alleged attacks against political rivals in Europe, including two killings in the Netherlands in 2015 and 2017 and a thwarted assassination in Denmark.
This case is the first time that a European Union country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism. The court has set a second hearing for next week.