Iran: 70 Western human rights experts condemn the prospective release of terrorist Assadollah Assadi
Approximately 70 lawmakers, academics, and human rights organizations from Europe and the Americas released a statement on Wednesday denouncing the potential release of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was convicted of planning a terrorist attack against Iranian expatriates and foreign backers of Iran’s pro-democracy opposition last year and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium. Two Iranian-Belgian operatives were detained by law enforcement on June 30, 2018, as they were heading toward the French border.
A number of crucial facts were established during the subsequent investigation and trial, including the fact that Assadi had personally brought explosives and a detonator into Europe from Iran before giving them to his accomplices at a meeting in Luxembourg. Furthermore, Belgian prosecutors made it abundantly clear that Assadi had received orders to carry out the attack from high-ups within the Iranian government rather than acting on his own initiative.
Such high-level involvement in a terrorist attack on European soil was a sign of the serious difficulties the regime was facing in the wake of a seemingly unplanned nationwide uprising at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. Iran has since experienced eight additional uprisings, the largest of which involved nearly 200 cities and towns. This unrest still exists today.
The organizing efforts of “Resistance Units” linked to the people’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the exact same group that Assadi targeted with his 2018 plot, are responsible for a large portion of the ongoing unrest. The bomb’s intended destination was an exhibition center in the French town of Villepinte, just outside Paris, where the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) had held a number of previous summer rallies celebrating the prospect of Iran’s domestic population throwing off the rule of the theocratic dictatorship.
As soon as it became clear that the West had little intention of holding higher Iranian authorities accountable, the MEK, the NCRI, and their supporters started criticizing Western powers. The unrest that is currently raging inside Iran practically ensures that there will always be incentives to attack the opposition, even at the risk of a major international incident. The risk associated with the latter is significantly lower than the risk connected with the opposition’s continued rise in socio-political influence due to the absence of high-level accountability.
This is to say that the Iranian regime enjoys a longstanding sense of impunity, which has only been reinforced in the wake of the 2018 terror plot, and which stands to be reinforced even further if Assadi is released as expected.
On March 11, Iran and Belgium signed a deal titled “Transfer of Sentenced Persons.” Only after the treaty had been presented to the Belgian parliament at the end of June and approved by both national legislatures by the end of August was it made public. Numerous opponents of the Iranian government had harshly condemned it at the same time, and MEK activists had even organized simultaneous protests in several Western capitals.
While those protests haven’t yet forced Belgium or any of its allies to seriously reconsider their current strategy, they have been successful in raising awareness of the case and the related treaty and bringing attention to the wider threat posed by Iranian terrorism in the context of Iranian impunity.