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Iran says won’t accept verdict in Belgian trial of diplomat accused in bomb plot

Tehran claims Assadollah Assadi ‘has been conspired against,’ after he refuses to appear at hearing for allegedly planning to attack opposition rally in France

Farzin Hashemi (4th-L), a representative of the People's Mujahedeen for international organizations and lawyers of National Council of Resistance of Iran William Bourdon (3rd-L) and Georges-Henri Beauthier (2nd-L) answer journalists questions at Antwerp courthouse, on November 27, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
Farzin Hashemi (4th-L), a representative of the People's Mujahedeen for international organizations and lawyers of National Council of Resistance of Iran William Bourdon (3rd-L) and Georges-Henri Beauthier (2nd-L) answer journalists questions at Antwerp courthouse, on November 27, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has said it will not recognize any verdict by a Belgian court against a diplomat accused of plotting to bomb an exiled opposition group’s rally.

Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces 20 years in prison if convicted of plotting to target a rally for opposition groups based outside Iran, organized in Villepinte outside Paris for June 30, 2018.

The rally included the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), which Tehran considers a terrorist group and has banned since 1981.

“We have announced many times and from the beginning that this court is not qualified, and that the judicial process is not legitimate due to (Assadi’s) diplomatic immunity and fundamental issues,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying Friday by ISNA news agency.

“And even it does lead to a verdict, we will not recognize it,” he said. “He is innocent and it is clear he has been conspired against.”

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)

The 48-year-old refused to appear as the trial began on Friday, claiming diplomatic immunity, but three co-accused were all in court.

Despite Assadi’s absence, Belgian prosecutors say they have the right to proceed.

Dimitri de Beco, lawyer of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi arrives at the courthouse in Antwerp on November 27, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

The trial is to continue with lawyer Dimitri de Beco representing Assadi.

After Friday’s session, the second part of the trial is scheduled to take place on Thursday. The court is then expected to adjourn to consider its verdict before ruling early next year.

Iran had previously criticized what it considered a violation of Assadi’s diplomatic immunity, saying his arrest was “illegal.”

In October 2018, France accused Iran’s ministry of intelligence of being behind the alleged attack.

Tehran has strongly denied the charges.

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