Austria to lift immunity of Iranian diplomat arrested over bomb plot

Cheryl Sanders
July 6, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Europe on Wednesday to take a harsher stance against Iran after an Iranian diplomat was arrested on suspicion of plotting to attack an Iranian opposition group in France.

The French and Belgian ambassadors, as well as the German charge d'affaires, for their parts, said they would immediately convey Iran's protest to their respective countries.

It added that the diplomat at the Iranian embassy in the Austrian capital, Vienna, was arrested in Germany.

Three other people were also arrested in France in connection with the case, two of whom were released.

He described the claim as baseless and unfounded, aimed to undermine the important visit of President Rouhani to Switzerland and Austria.

Iran's foreign minister on Monday dismissed a plot to attack an Iranian opposition rally in France as a "false flag ploy" created to overshadow a tour by his country's president to Europe.

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.

After the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, its European signatories Britain, France and Germany have vowed to save the agreement despite US pushing them to pullout. The "Free Iran" movement, whose stated goals involve the removal of the county's Islamist rulers in favor of a secular government, has found outspoken allies in Newt Gingrich, an informal advisor to the president, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer.

Austria also informed Iran on Tuesday that the diplomat would be "deprived of his diplomatic status within 48 hours because of the existence of a European arrest warrant" against him, said the spokesman, Matthias Forenbacher.

The developments come as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Switzerland as part of a visit to Europe in which Iran is seeking greater cooperation with the continent after the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement. The Iranian regime continued to support Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other countries with the goal of pushing out forces that are rivals to Tehran.

The NCRI is an umbrella group for exiled opposition organizations, including the former rebel People's Mujahedin, which was once considered a terror group by European and American authorities and is banned in Iran.

The NCRI's leader, Maryam Rajavi, tweeted on Monday that "EU officials must question the mullahs why their answer to innocent people, from Paris to Khorramshahr and Tehran is to plant bombs and open fire?"

The United States did the same in September 2012, having originally listed the group in 1997.

Police carried out 5 raids across Belgium on Saturday linked to the affair, authorities said, though they refused to detail any results of the operation.

Other reports by iNewsToday