Suspects in plot to bomb Iranian opposition rally in France to be sent to Belgium

Suspects in plot to bomb Iranian opposition rally in France to be sent to Belgium
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Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), holds flower during their gathering in Villepinte, near Paris on June 30, 2018. (REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)
Suspects in plot to bomb Iranian opposition rally in France to be sent to Belgium
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Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, delivers his speech as he attends the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), meeting in Villepinte, near Paris on June 30, 2018. French, Belgian and German authories have arrested an Iranian diplomat and three others for allegedly plotting to bomb the Villepinte meeting. (REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)
Updated 05 July 2018

Suspects in plot to bomb Iranian opposition rally in France to be sent to Belgium

Suspects in plot to bomb Iranian opposition rally in France to be sent to Belgium
  • Two Belgians of Iranian origin were arrested on Saturday with 500 grams of the homemade explosive TATP and a detonation device.
  • Iran blames the opposition group NCRI of orchestrating the alleged plot and said the couple arrested in Belgium were actually members of the group.

PARIS/JEDDAH: France and Germany will send two men, including an Iranian diplomat, to Belgium to face accusations they were involved in a plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally on the outskirts of Paris, judicial sources said on Wednesday.
Belgium is investigating two Belgians of Iranian origin arrested on Saturday, the day of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) meeting. Five hundred grams of the homemade explosive TATP and a detonation device were found in their car.
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The exiled Iranian opposition group’s meeting was attended by Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who gave a speech calling for the removal of Iran’s rulers.
In addition to the two people arrested in Belgium, an Austria-based Iranian diplomat was held in Germany, and a man of Iranian origin was held in France. Judicial authorities in France and Germany told Reuters Belgium had requested they be extradited.
“It’s extremely sensitive and the Belgians are taking the lead,” said one European intelligence source.
The plot and the envoy’s arrest cast a shadow over Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Vienna on Wednesday to try to bolster support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which is close to collapse after the US pulled out. The NCRI held a small protest against Rouhani’s visit on the edge of central Vienna.
During a visit by Rouhani to Vienna on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement to reporters that Rouhani had assured him that he would work to clarify the case.
Foreign ministers from the remaining signatories to the deal — Iran, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — meet in the city on Friday to discuss its future. Proof of Iranian involvement in a terrorist bomb plot on European soil would make it difficult for Rouhani to win their support.
“The Iranian regime has been involved in terrorist activities since its establishment in 1979, but this is the first time an Iranian official has been arrested for such a blatant act related to orchestrating a terrorist attack,” the Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News.
“It is time for the international community, particularly the European Union, to join many Iranian people and hold the regime accountable for its terrorist activities and human rights violations. Appeasement policies with the Islamic Republic ought to be stopped.”
French officials have declined to comment on the matter saying the nature of the incident is unclear.
Highlighting the political sensitivities, Iran summoned France’s ambassador to protest against the staging of the opposition meeting. Tehran “strongly protested against the French support of activities of the terrorist organization,” referring to an exiled opposition group.
France’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since the United States withdrew in May from a deal to lift sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear program, the deal’s European signatories Britain, France and Germany have said they want to save the accord. Iran has called on the European countries to offer economic benefits to make up for the damage caused by new US sanctions.
Any suggestion that Iranian authorities were behind the plot in France could make it politically difficult for leaders, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, to continue to back the nuclear deal.
The Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was stripping the diplomatic status of the diplomat arrested in Germany. Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected as baseless the allegations against the diplomat.

Iran blames Mujahedeen
Tehran has dismissed accusations it was behind the plot. It blamed the NCRI of orchestrating the alleged plot and said a couple arrested in Belgium were actually members of the group.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said it was the People’s Mujahedeen itself that was behind the “scenario.”
“Based on the information available, the individuals arrested in Belgium are among the ... notorious and operational elements” of the MEK, the ministry said on its website.
“Relevant Iranian authorities are prepared to offer the necessary cooperation by presenting the required documents and evidence to shed light on the real dimensions of this pre-planned scenario orchestrated by the terrorist group,” it said.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is with Rouhani in Europe, said on Monday the foiled Villepinte attack was a “false flag ploy” to harm Iran and offered his country’s help in investigating the matter.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the foreign ministry had summoned France’s ambassador to Tehran, Francois Senemaud, to hear officials “strongly protesting against the activities of the terrorist and hypocritical MEK group in France.”
“Extremist terrorist groups should not be allowed to take refuge (in a country) under the pretext of freedom of expression and thus promote their ideology,” it said, citing the ministry.
On Tuesday the ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper criticized the ministry’s handling of the case and called for the expulsion of the French ambassador, who is due to step down days after being appointed as President Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for Syria.

(With Reuters & AFP)