Belgium authorities announced an Iranian diplomat was arrested, as well two other people, on suspicion of plotting a bomb attack on a meeting of exiled Iranian opposition groups in France.
Amir S., 38, and Nasimeh N., 33, husband and wife, both Belgian nationals, “are suspected of having attempted to carry out a bomb attack” on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, during a conference organised by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor said.
A close ally of Donald Trump, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, was in attendance at the rally. Three arrests were also made in France. The couple, described by prosecutors as being “of Iranian origin”, were carrying 500 grams (about a pound) of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonation device when an elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels.
A diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna was also arrested in Germany, according to the Belgian statement.
The arrests came as Iranian President Hassan Rohani began a trip to Europe.
Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif called the news a sinister “false flag ploy” and said Tehran was ready to work with all concerned parties to get to the bottom of it. “How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its ‘plotters’ arrested,” Zarif tweeted.
The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Switzerland on Monday evening for a visit to Europe presented as “paramount” for the future of the Iranian nuclear agreement following the U.S. withdrawal from the pact.
Rouhani is due to be in Switzerland on Monday and Tuesday before travelling on Wednesday to Vienna, where the July 2015 agreement that ended Iran’s international isolation, in exchange of the freezing of its nuclear programme and its commitment never to develop the atom bomb, was signed.
Austria took over the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) for six months on Sunday, while Switzerland represents the interests of the United States in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Vienna Agreement was signed between Iran and the Group of 5 + 1 (China, France, Germany, Great Britain and the United States).
The People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, also known by its Persian name Mujahideen-e-Khalq, was once listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union but is no longer. Founded in 1965 as a left-wing Muslim group, it staunchly opposed the Shah of Iran and was involved in the protests that led to his downfall and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
It initially endorsed the republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini but, after its leader Massoud Rajavi was barred from standing in the first presidential election, the MEK turned against the government.
It launched an armed struggle to topple the Islamic Republic, claiming responsibility for the assassination of several high-profile figures. After fleeing to France, the movement steadily acquired the characteristics of a cult, with veneration of Massoud Rajavi and his wife, Maryam.