• By The Financial District


A Belgian court sentenced an Iranian diplomat who masterminded a foiled bomb plot targeting an opposition rally in France to 20 years in prison on Thursday, in a case that has stoked tensions with Tehran, Ella Joyner and Ansgar Haase reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

All four defendants on trial were found guilty by the Antwerp criminal court of attempted terrorist murder and of membership in a larger terrorist group within Iran's domestic intelligence apparatus.

Their intended target was a large rally on June 30, 2018, in the town of Villepinte near Paris, organized by the opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is banned in Iran.

Thousands of people attended the event, including prominent political personalities such as former US President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Investigators say that had the attack gone ahead, it could have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. Instead, it was thwarted by police in Belgium, France and Germany., Assadollah A was accredited as a diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna at the time of the crime, and was described as the operational leader of the plan in an official court statement.

German investigators previously said the 49-year-old was believed to belong to the Iranian intelligence ministry MOIS, the tasks of which include monitoring and combating opposition groups inside and outside Iran.

The other three defendants were Belgian-Iranian dual nationals - including a married couple - tasked with carrying out the attack. They were stripped of their citizenship by the European state, and received custodial sentences between 15 and 18 years in length.

The link to Iranian intelligence authorities was clear from "sums of money paid to the defendants, the way information was gathered, the meetings in Iran, the use of diplomatic status, and the making and testing of the explosive device in Iran itself," the court statement read.