Just over 11 weeks ago, Iranian Australians and their supporters were the target of an elaborate bombing attempt in Paris.
Only the swift actions of the Austrian, Belgian, French and German police averted a terrible disaster. In contrast, the Australian government has remained curiously unmoved.
In June this year, I joined (as a former president of the NSW Legislative Council) Victorian MP Don Nardella, director of the Edmund Rice Centre Phil Glendenning and thirty Iranian Australians in attending an annual rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris.
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The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), mostly comprising the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, hold an annual democracy rally in Villepinte, Paris, which attracts over 100,000 Iranians from the international diaspora and several hundred politicians from around the world.
We have always known that it is an obvious target for attack by the Mullahs’ regime but our Iranian hosts from the NCRI run a very tight security operation and I never felt particularly threatened. High profile supporters from Europe and the United States arrive with their own security details to add to a general feeling of comfort.
However, as we were leaving the rally we heard rumours of arrests taking place.
This was later confirmed when a number of Iranians were arrested in Belgium and Germany and charged with “wanting to commit a bomb attack in Villepinte on 30 June at a Conference”.
One of them was identified as the Iranian regime’s intelligence station chief under diplomatic cover at the Iranian embassy in Vienna.
The US State Department has said that it has no doubt that the bomb plot was both real and planned by the Iranian regime. It stated “this is only the most recent example of Iran using diplomatic cover to plot terrorism”. A senior official said the department takes the arrest of the Iranian diplomat “very seriously” and “is working very closely with the Belgians and the Austrians and the Germans to get to the bottom of this plot”.
Yesterday the French government accused “elements of the Iranian state” of involvement in the bomb plot and seized assets of Iran’s intelligence services.
The Australian government, however, has since expressed little interest, even though Australian citizens were obviously in danger.
On August 22, in one of her last actions in the job, former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop replied to a letter from Labor Senator Claire Moore on the matter. After a few standard fob-offs, she concluded that “following the outcome of all appropriate legal proceedings, the Australian government will consider its response”.
When one of our Iranian comrades arrived back in Australia, he was quizzed by ASIO officials about the rally and the bomb plot. The ASIO agent expressed surprise at how many Australians had actually attended the rally, particularly the Iranian Australians. They seemed to believe that the majority of Iranians in Australia had traditional conservative attachments rather than being supporters of the democratic NCRI.
Why have our government and security agents shown such a lack of interest in this incident? When the bomb is aimed at you personally, it certainly focuses the mind.
Dr Meredith Burgmann is a writer and former Labor MLC.