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Iranian diplomat held in Belgium over 'bomb plot'

Iran staunchly denied the French accusations [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 October, 2018

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

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

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.

Iran last week staunchly denied French accusations that one of its diplomats was involved in the alleged plot that took place just ahead of a visit to Europe by President Hassan Rouhani.

The suspected plan to target a gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a Paris suburb came to light a few days after the June 30 event.

Six people were arrested afterwards in coordinated raids by European police forces, including Assadi.

The meeting was also attended by leading US figures, including close allies of US President Donald Trump.

Iran has accused the opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), which Tehran considers a "terrorist" group, of orchestrating the plot to discredit Rouhani.

Belgian authorities in July 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 of the powerful explosive TATP and a detonator.

All three are Belgian nationals of Iranian origin.

"We deny the accusations and forcefully condemn the Iranian diplomat's arrest and call for his immediate release," the Iran foreign affairs ministry said on October 2 in a statement.

But French security services believe the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind the foiled plot.

In retaliation, France announced it had frozen Assadi's assets for six months.

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