ISSN 2330-717X

Iranian Dissidents Protest Belgian Plan to Release Four Convicted Terrorists

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Hundreds of Iranian-American expatriates protested at Belgium’s US embassy against plans to release four Iranians convicted of attempting to kill civilians who attended an anti-Iran conference in 2018.

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Asadollah Assadi was convicted and given a 20-year prison term by a Belgian court for his role in providing explosive materials to three accomplices who planned to kill people at the Paris event organized by the National Conference of Resistance of Iran, which was also attended by leaders of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

Protestors at the embassy in Washington D.C. voiced their disbelief that Belgium was planning to allow the four convicted terrorists, who had the backing of Iran’s regime, to return to Iran to serve out their prison terms.

The plan, which has received preliminary approval from the Belgian legislature, was swiftly condemned by 13 US Congress members in a letter to Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and by the Organization of Iranian American Communities.

“I am shocked to find out that the Belgian gov has cut a deal with the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism & plans to send Iranian terrorists back to Iran to plot more terroristic acts,” said Texas Republican Congressman Randy Weber. “I urge my colleagues to join me to sound the alarm on this so-called arrangement.”

Transfer authorization for the four is expected to receive formal approval by next week on July 14, NCRI officials said.
Assadi’s accomplices, Nasimeh Maami, Amir Saadouni, and Mehrdad Arefani were arrested in Belgium and also charged with the attempted Paris bombing.

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Like Assadi, Sadouni and Naami were convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Arefani was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

The Belgian plan to return the four to Iran essentially pardoned them, NCRI officials argued.

“What the government of Belgium is doing is pure capitulation to the Iranian regime’s terror demands and surrendering to Tehran’s hostage diplomacy,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI’s Washington office.

“This would not only breed more terrorism and hostage-taking, but it would create an appalling precedent and a new norm to afford impunity to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism instead of punishing it. This cannot happen in the 21st century at the heart of Europe.”

During the trial in Belgium, officials said hundreds of dissidents would have been killed had the plot not been foiled by Belgian investigators before the bomb could be placed at the conference.

Assadi, a senior Iranian diplomat, was accused during the trial of using his “diplomatic immunity” to conceal the explosive materials while traveling on several commercial airlines to deliver them to his accomplices.

Belgian officials said they found 500 grams of the deadly explosive TATP when they arrested the four men.

Assadi intended to have the three accomplices travel to Paris and place the bomb at the conference to “kill as many people as possible.”

Protests against the planned release and return of the men to Iran have also been taking place in Paris, near the site of the intended bombing target, and in other European cities.

Ray Hanania

*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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