Iranian terror suspect in Belgian jail is top spy

New confidential information seen by VRT News’s Jens Franssen reveals that the Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi is one of Iran’s leading spies, who was in charge of operations across Europe.  Earlier Belgian intelligence also established that the diplomat was involved in illicit intelligence gathering.

The Iranian stands accused of involvement in a failed bomb attack targeting members of the Iranian opposition at a mass rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. Assadi has been held in a Belgian prison awaiting the verdict in his trial next Thursday, but it has also emerged that while in custody he was visited by his superiors, who made the journey from Tehran especially.

Together with three alleged accomplices including a Belgian-Iranian couple from Wilrijk (Antwerp Province) Assadi will appear in court on Thursday. The couple was arrested with a bomb in the boot of their car outside Brussels two years ago. They were on their way to a mass rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the main Iranian opposition movement, being held in Paris.

Belgian prosecutors are seeking a twenty-year jail term for Assadi on account of his role in the failed bomb attack.  New documents show that Assadi, the brain behind the attack, was not only responsible for instructing the Belgian-Iranian couple, but also had numerous contacts across the continent of Europe.  The documents were provided by the German and Dutch police services.

In Assadi’s car German police discovered a green copy book containing 200 pages.  The copy book contained receipts and it is thought this was part of Assadi’s book-keeping to allow him to reclaim his expenses from the Iranian intelligence service.

An invoice found on Assadi

Invoices and chits reveal that in recent years in several countries Assadi paid out large amounts of cash in instalments totalling several hundred to several thousand euros each. The chits identify the recipients only by aliases.

List of addresses where Assadi stayed

Investigators also collected data about Assadi from various large hotel booking platforms.  In this way it emerged that the Iranian often booked accommodation via Booking.com.  The data were compared with his phone records.  A picture emerged showing Assadi travelled extensively in recent years.  Sometimes he was accompanied by relatives as a cover.  The Iranian frequented public spaces in many smaller European cities where he made appointments at tourist spots.  The data reveal a predilection for meetings outside castles and fortresses.

List of bookings via Booking.com (from Dutch police)

Being a diplomat it isn’t out of character that he travels a lot, but as a diplomat attached to the Iranian embassy in Vienna (Austria) his numerous trips to other countries where Iran does possess diplomatic representations raise an eyebrow or two.  Strikingly, he frequently prefers to book a room in smaller European towns, where his presence is more likely not to set alarm bells ringing. 

German police made a list of Assadi's payments

During his two years in a Belgian jail Assadi received frequent visits.  This is not unusual given his status as an Iranian diplomat, but in nearly all cases the Iranian ambassador also attended these meetings betraying the importance the Iranians attach to this individual.

Belgian intelligence agency document

Assadi is also visited by delegations that travel especially from the Iranian capital Tehran. Belgian intelligence has screened the visitors and came to the conclusion that not everybody can be linked to the Iranian foreign ministry.

The Iranian opposition group that was the target of the failed bomb attack, the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, say that they have established the true identity of these members of the delegation.  Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman of the Iranian opposition, notes they are “key figures in the Iranian secret service, members of the division that runs the networks of spies abroad”.

Belgian intelligence agency conclusions

The implication is that in his Belgian jail cell Assadi received visits from superiors, probably to receive instructions with regard to his trial.  During his questioning the Iranian refused to make any statement threatening Belgian investigators at one point.

Shahin Gobadi (People’s Mujahedin of Iran) identifies one of the visitors as Reza Lotfi, a key figure in the Iranian secret service.  “He is responsible for the network of Iranian spies operating out of Iranian embassies.  The close involvement of the Iranian foreign ministry shows that Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, is directly involved in terrorism.”

In order not to endanger the investigation VRT News agreed not to publish all the details of the judicial dossier.

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