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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Mike Pompeo offers US support as Belgium questions Iran diplomat

Prosecutors take custody of Iranian believed to be at the heart of a state-sponsored bomb plot targetting Paris rally

Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, at the anti-regime conference allegedly targeted by Iranian terrorists. Reuters
Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, at the anti-regime conference allegedly targeted by Iranian terrorists. Reuters

The Iranian diplomat extradited by Germany to Belgium has undergone questioning in prison near Antwerp over his alleged role directing a plot to bomb an opposition rally featuring high profile Western politicians including Rudy Giuliani.

Assadollah Assadi, who worked as station manager in Vienna for Tehran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), was sent to Belgium on Wednesday. All four people connected with the cross-border assassination attempt – the rally was held near Paris in June – are now in custody in Belgium, where prosecutors are building a case for trial later in the year.

Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, welcome the latest developments including the German decision to proceed with extradition after Austria waved diplomatic immunity requirements.

“The scale of this plot, which involved arrests of numerous suspects across Europe – including in Belgium, France, and Germany – reminds us that Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Mr Pompeo said. “This plot also lays bare Iran’s continued support of terrorism throughout Europe.

“We support our European allies in exposing and countering the threat that Iranian-backed terrorism poses around the world. The United States will continue working with our partners and allies to confront the threat posed by the Iranian regime.”

In a display of its anger, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador on Wednesday to protest the extradition. In its latest denial of orchestrating the plot, Tehran said the extradition was the result of "a fabricated conspiracy by enemies of Iran and European relations".

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Belgian anti-terrorism prosecutors announced on July 2 that they had foiled the plot after receiving intelligence tip offs. Mr Assadi was held within days near the German city of Aschaffenburg on a European warrant alleging his involvement in the plot to bomb the rally. His arrest came after Amir Saadouni, 38, and his wife Nasimeh, 34, a couple with Iranian roots, was stopped in Belgium and authorities reported finding powerful explosives in their car. Brussels requested the extradition of both Mr Assadi and a man identified as Merhad A who was detained in Paris.

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

Members of the Iranian opposition movement NCRI claim that Mr Assadi played a pivotal role as head of intelligence for Europe since 2014 and had previous experience in handling explosives and demolition.

The opposition claimed that his immediate boss was Reza Amiri Moghaddam, a key figure within the ministry, who reported directly to the regime’s intelligence minister.