Diplomat arrested in plot to blow up anti-Iran rally
An Iranian diplomat, along with five others, have been arrested over a plot to blow up an event of an exiled Iranian opposition group.
The event for the National Resistance Council of Iran (NRCI), an Iranian opposition organization based in Paris, also featured President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani on June 30, 2018.
Belgian police intercepted two suspects on June 30, 2018, with 500 grams of a home-made explosive powder, as well as a detonation device in their car, Reuters reported, citing a joint statement by the Belgian prosecutor and Belgian intelligence services.
The suspects, reportedly a married couple in their thirties, were charged with attempted terrorist murder and preparation of a terrorist act. The NCRI said the woman had come from Iran to Belgium in 2009.
According to The National, the Iranian diplomat was based in the Austrian capital of Vienna, and was arrested in Germany. The diplomat is suspected of having been in contact with the couple who were identified by Iranian exiles as residents of northern Antwerp.
The NCRI claimed the diplomat had been station chief of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in Vienna since 2014.
Three others were arrested in France as prosecutors determined if they were linked to the Brussels suspects, Reuters said, citing a French judicial source.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is due to visit Austria on July 4, 2018. In a tweet on July 2, 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif referred to the foiled plot as a "false flag" operation.
"How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its 'plotters' arrested," Zarif tweeted.
The NCRI event dubbed "Free Iran 2018 — the Alternative" took place on on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, just outside Paris. Along with Giuliani, it featured several former European and Arab ministers, and attracted a crowd of thousands, according to Reuters.
In a statement, Giuliani said the participants of the rally "appreciate and admire the fine work of law enforcement particularly in Belgium and France in arresting the terrorists who according to the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's office were planning an attack on the gathering supporting freedom from the theocratic oppressive regime in Iran."
He added: "This accentuates the growing sense that the regime that is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world is increasingly weakened by constant large demonstrations in over 140 cities. It is also becoming apparent that Madam Maryam Rajavi and the NCRI pose a realistic alternative to this homicidal regime. Nothing could be worse for these misogynists than a movement seen as replacing them headed by a heroic woman."
Iranian government regularly criticizes the group in state media.
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