Belgium holding Iranian diplomat over alleged bomb plot at opposition rally
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Belgium holding Iranian diplomat over alleged bomb plot at opposition rally

Assadollah Assadi extradited from Germany, questioned in Antwerp over plot to attack Paris rally, reportedly foiled by Mossad

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, activists of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hold placards in front of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin reading 'Deliver the Iranian diplomat-terrorist to Belgium' during a demonstration calling for the extradition of an Iranian diplomat to Belgium over suspicions that he was involved in plotting to bomb an opposition Iranian group's conference in Paris. (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)
In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, activists of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hold placards in front of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin reading 'Deliver the Iranian diplomat-terrorist to Belgium' during a demonstration calling for the extradition of an Iranian diplomat to Belgium over suspicions that he was involved in plotting to bomb an opposition Iranian group's conference in Paris. (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

An Iranian diplomat was taken into custody in Belgium on Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in an alleged plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France.

An investigating magistrate earlier questioned the Iranian, normally based in Vienna, in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that the suspect, previously identified as Assadollah Assadi, had been extradited to Belgium from Germany.

Iran has denied French accusations that one of its diplomats was involved in a plot targeting an annual gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on June 30 just outside Paris.

People hold pictures of relatives killed by the Iranian regime during the ‘Free Iran 2018 — the Alternative’ event on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. Six people were arrested in Belgium, Germany, and France for an alleged plot to attack the rally, including an Iranian diplomat and his wife. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

Belgian anti-terrorism prosecutors announced on July 2 that they had foiled the plot. They then requested the extradition of both Assadi and a man identified as Merhad A., who was detained in Paris.

Belgian police believe Merhad A. is an accomplice of a husband and wife team caught in Brussels in possession of 500 grams (about a pound) of the powerful explosive TATP and a detonator.

All three are Belgian nationals of Iranian origin.

The suspected plan to target a gathering of the NCRI organized by dissident group The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) in a Paris suburb came to light a few days after the event.

Hebrew media reported earlier this year that the plot was thwarted by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Six people were arrested in Belgium, France, and Germany, two of whom were later released.

German prosecutors say Assadi, believed to be an intelligence agent, ordered a couple to attack the rally and had handed them the explosives at a June meeting in Luxembourg.

Tehran has dismissed the alleged bomb plot as a “sinister false flag ploy” designed to discredit Iran at a time when it faces major diplomatic tensions with the United States.

Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks at the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights and democracy at the Grand Hyatt, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The rally in the Paris suburb of Villepinte was attended by several allies of US President Donald Trump, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, both of whom urged regime change in Iran.

The MEK, formed in the 1960s to overthrow the shah of Iran, fought the rise of the mullahs in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It earned itself a listing as a “terrorist organization” by the US State Department in 1997 and was only removed from terror watchlists by the European Union in 2008 and by Washington in 2012.

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