Iranian diplomat on trial over plan to bomb a rally where Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker but Mossad tipped off the police

Naina Bhardwaj
Rudy Giuliani NCRI rally
Rudy Giuliani delivers his speech as he attends the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) meeting in Villepinte, France on June 30, 2018. Regis Duvignau/Reuters
  • An Iranian diplomat and three others have gone on trial in Belgium accused of planning a terrorist attack on a rally where Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer, was the keynote speaker.

  • Iran's Assadollah Assadi was not in the dock having claimed diplomatic immunity. 

  • Maryam Rajavi, leader of the MEK, an exiled Iranian opposition group, was the main target of the attack.

  • If the powerful bomb had exploded, it could have caused carnage in a packed crowd of 25,000.

  • Other prominent public figures who attended, included Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives.

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An Iranian diplomat has gone on trial in Belgium for his part in a planned terrorist attack on a rally where Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker.

Assadollah Assadi, 48, a diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces life in prison if convicted.

The target of the attack, according to prosecutors, was a rally held in Villepinte, France, on June 30, 2018, organized by the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), a political arm of the People's Mojahedin of Iran or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK).

The group is considered a terrorist organization and an arch-enemy by Iran. Maryam Rajavi, leader of the MEK, was the main target of the attack, the court heard.

In the last-minute, international police operation, a Belgian couple of Iranian origin was stopped in a Brussels' suburb, on the day of the rally. They claimed to be on a driving holiday, said AP.

But Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, had met Assadi, an Iranian diplomat serving as a third counselor at the country's embassy in Vienna, Austria, at a Pizza Hut, the BBC added. Following Mossad's tip-off, the Israeli intelligence agency, a Belgian plainclothes officer, observed Assadi handing them a package that contained a powerful explosive, reported the New York Times.

The pair denied knowing that they were handed a bomb. Naami said she thought it contained fireworks, ABC News reported.

The Belgian bomb disposal unit said that they found 550 grams of ready to use triacetone triperoxide (TATP) "wrapped in plastic and concealed in the lining of a vanity case" in the couple's Mercedes, according to The Washington Post.

They also found a digital remote trigger in a small bag belonging to Naami containing feminine hygiene items and a red notebook in Assadi's car with instructions for using the bomb, ABC News added.

If the powerful bomb had exploded, it could have hit the crowd of 25,000 and other prominent public figures, including Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, and several MPs from the UK.

TATP was used when suicide bombers killed 32 people in an attack on the Brussels subway and airport in 2016.

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Crowds at the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) rally held in Villepinte, France, on June 30, 2018. Yusuf Ozcan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Assadi has also been accused of paying the couple $14,000 and was arrested while traveling through Germany on July 1, 2018, where he had no immunity from prosecution, France24 reported.

Belgium's State Security Service (VSSE) believes he worked for Iran's  Department 312, pf the directorate for internal security, which is on the EU's list of terrorist organizations, according to The New York Times.

He allegedly recruited the couple to obtain information about the Iranian opposition and worked with a fourth suspect, Mehrdad Arefani, an Iranian poet and resident of Brussels, AP.

Text messages and emails between the four suspects revealed that they used code to communicate and referred to the explosive device as the 'PlayStation 4,' The Washington Post reported.

They have all been charged with attempting to carry out a terrorist attack and terrorist group activity and could face life in prison. 

The trial began yesterday, with the verdict expected to be delivered by early next year.

 Assadi was not in the dock, having claimed diplomatic immunity. 

Iran has denied being behind the alleged thwarted attack, according to France 24.

The MEK leader Rajavi has said that Assadi received his orders from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but did not provide any evidence, according to AP.

MEK was on the US and EU terrorism lists until 2012. After denouncing violence, it recruited western politicians to lobby on its behalf, AP reported. It supports Donald Trump's US sanctions against it, gaining powerful allies such as Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer, according to the BBC.

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