Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, February 5, 2021—Thursday marked an historic day for European justice and a turning point in the fight against terrorism. A Belgian court sentenced Assadollah Assadi, a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat, to 20 years in prison for his direct involvement in a bombing plot against a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in 2018. His three co-conspirators received 15-18 years of prison each and were stripped of their Belgian citizenship.
The verdict was significant for several reasons. First, it was a victory for the Iranian people and their resistance movement, who have been the main victims of the Iranian regime’s decades-long terrorist plots across the globe.
As Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, said in a keynote speech at an online conference held as the court declared its verdict, “Iran and the rest of the world have been suffering from this terrorism in the past four decades.”
Second, it was a victory for the Belgian judiciary, which proved its independence and carried out with the ruling despite immense pressure by the regime. These measured included diplomatic pressure and claims of diplomatic immunity for Assadi; threats to resort to terrorist retaliation in case of Assadi’s conviction; hostage-taking of dual nationals in Iran and threats to execute them; and suggestions of prisoner swaps between Assadi and foreign nationals held captive in Iran.
As Farzin Hashemi, member of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee, stipulated in his remarks in another online conference held after the court ruling, “Over the past two-and-half years, the regime did all it could to derail the trial.”
But despite the regime’s efforts, the court proceeded with stripping Assadi of his diplomatic immunity and trying him for his terror plot.
Third, this is a documented proof of the regime’s state-backed terrorism. The Belgian security service and the court confirmed that, contrary to the regime’s initial claims, the terror attack was not a rogue or false flag operation. Assadi was acting on behalf of the Iranian regime. The attack was meticulously planned and provisioned at the highest levels of power in the Iranian regime, and had it not been foiled, it could have inflicted hundreds of casualties among the tens of thousands of people who attended the 2018 event, which was held on the outskirts of Paris.
Finally, it proved once and for all that terrorism is part and parcel to the regime’s foreign policy. This was the work of a career diplomat, and was facilitated through diplomatic channels and with the resources of the foreign ministry and in coordination with the ministry of intelligence and security. When it comes to terrorism, the regime’s factions, institutions, and politicians put all rivalries aside because they see terrorism as a vital element of their survival.
A new chapter in the fight against terrorism
While celebrating this historic verdict, we must also remember that this is not the end of a battle, but the beginning of a new chapter. The question is, what comes next?
The Belgian judiciary has done its part and in spite of all pressure has taken the historic sentence a terrorist diplomat to long-term prison.
It is now time for politicians and world leaders to take measures that are proportional to the significance of the court’s verdict and Tehran’s belligerent behavior.
One thing that is for sure is that while European authorities have managed to stop one terror plot, the regime’s terror apparatus has not been dismantled yet. And where is that terror apparatus located? In every embassy, cultural organization, and other enterprises that the regime is funding and nurturing in every country around the world. According to documents obtained by German investigators, Assadi had been running a terror network that spanned across 11 European countries. He had made hundreds of trips to these countries and paying hundreds of operatives in cash. All of that was being done under diplomatic cover. How many other Assadis does the Iranian regime have in its embassies? How many other terrorist networks is the regime running across Europe, all run and funded through its diplomatic facilities and channels.
One measure that Madam Rajavi called for and many other speakers at yesterday’s events echoed was the closure of the regime’s embassies. This must be complemented with revoking citizenship and asylum status of any agent that is working on behalf of the regime. The regime’s agents should know that there are severe consequences for playing into the hands of Tehran.
In the words of former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli: “I do not know how European leaders who have Iranian embassies in their capital can continue as if nothing has happened. The events of today make a mockery of the fact that these relations will maintain. Every head of European country has some serious thinking to do.”
Second, government must hold all regime leaders to account for their role in this and other terrorist attacks. Of particular concern is Javad Zarif, the regime’s top diplomat, who is often regarded as a voice of moderation in the regime. He is directly responsible for the terrorist activities being carried out under his watch and through his embassies.
“You must take into account whom you are dealing with,” said Robert Joseph, former U.S. Under Secretary of State and Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation and a seasoned diplomat. “It does not matter how well-spoken the regime’s officials are. These individuals would not be in their position if they were not complicit in the regime’s crimes. Zarif proves this rule.”
Third, there’s need for a broader policy that recognizes the failure of appeasing the regime. Four decades of constant concessions to the regime did nothing to deter the regime’s criminal behavior. It only emboldened it to become more aggressive and provocative in its terrorist activities. Had there been accountability, the regime would not have dared directly involve its diplomat in the 2018 terror plot.
As former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi said in his remarks, “Those who appease the mullahs’ regime must be aware that the mask is finally off. The regime is certified as a terrorist state by the court.”
Fourth, this is but one of the regime’s crimes. It is time to hold the regime’s leaders to account for their innumerable criminal acts.
“Today, the truth, the rule of law, justice, have prevailed over impunity. Impunity has failed. Through this verdict, it’s not only Assadi who has been convicted. It’s the whole regime. The whole regime has been behind crimes against humanity,” said Dr. Tahar Boumedra, legal expert and former chief of the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). “Today’s verdict is a very good example and a source of inspiration for the United Nations. Let us not forget that the criminals behind the 1988 massacre remain to be held accountable. And I am sure that in this case too, justice will prevail.”
“We need a comprehensive strategy to end 41 years of terrorism. We need to think out of the box. Let us have a new strategy and let us bring the guilty to justice. What the regime has tried to do in Paris is no different from what ISIS has been doing,” said Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
And finally, it’s time for the world to consider the ultimate fix to the regime’s terrorism: Democratic regime change in Iran. This terrorist regime does not represent the people of Iran. And the flipside of the regime’s terrorism is domestic repression, torture, and executions in Iran. In the past few weeks alone, the regime has executed dozens of people. Corruption has bankrupt the country’s economy, and the regime squanders the people’s money on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The people of Iran have made it clear through five uprisings in the past three years that they want regime change. In their demonstrations, they are calling for mullahs to let go of power and stop spending the country’s wealth on waging war in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries. And the people have paid the ultimate price with more than 1,500 protesters killed by security forces. But they still continue to come to the streets and protest. If there is one force that can put an end to the regime’s terrorism, it is the people of Iran and their resistance movement. This provides the international community with an exceptional opportunity to end the mullahs’ threat to world peace and security.
As former Congressman Patrick Kennedy said in his remarks: “It’s time to call Iran for what it is: a terrorist state. It’s time to expel their diplomats. It’s time that we have a new Iran, that we support the NCRI, we support the 10-point plan of Madam Rajavi, and that we support a new day for all Iranians who can finally be freed of this terrorist regime who terrorizes not only Iranians but the whole world.”