Austria to lift immunity of Iranian diplomat in bomb plot

July 03, 2018 - 10:06 am

BERLIN (AP) — Austria plans to revoke the legal immunity of an Iranian diplomat who is suspected of involvement in a plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France, officials said Tuesday.

The Iranian government was notified that the man's diplomatic status would be canceled within 48 hours unless Tehran does so first, Matthias Forenbacher, a spokesman for Austria's foreign minister, told The Associated Press.

The diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was detained Sunday near the German city of Aschaffenburg on a European arrest warrant after a couple with Iranian roots was stopped in Belgium and authorities reported finding powerful explosives in their car. The web site of the Austrian Foreign Ministry lists Assadi as a counselor at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna.

Iran's ambassador was summoned to the ministry Monday and asked to "contribute to clarifying the situation," Forenbacher said. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to travel to Austria on Wednesday for a long-planned visit.

Belgian authorities accuse Assadi of being part of an alleged plot to set off explosives at a rally of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq group in neighboring France and want him extradited.

Munich prosecutors told the AP they are also investigating the diplomat in connection with the alleged plan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the allegations of a foiled extremist plot a ploy Monday.

"How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its 'plotters arrested,'" Zarif said in a Twitter message. "Iran unequivocally condemns all violence & terror anywhere."

The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, is an exiled Iranian opposition group based largely in Paris and Albania. The formerly armed group was removed from European Union and U.S. terrorism lists several years ago after denouncing violence and getting western politicians to lobby on its behalf.

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