On November 27, 2020, four Iranian terrorist operatives will go on trial in Antwerp, Belgium. Among them is Iran’s regime diplomat-terrorist Assdollah Assadi. The following is the statement of Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate.
DECLARATION FOR THE ANTWERP COURT IN THE CONTEXT OF THE PROCEDURE RELATING TO THE TERRORIST PLOT AGAINST THE JUNE 2018 VILLEPINTE GATHERING
I, the undersigned Ingrid Betancourt, born December 25, 1961, in Bogota, French nationality, acting as a civil party in the proceedings relating to the terrorist plot against the gathering of Free Iran in Villepinte on June 30, 2018, make the declaration which follows to submit it to the Court of Antwerp.
I want to express, first of all, how much I was shocked to feel threatened by a terrorist plot of foreign origin on the soil of my dear country, France. Here, my freedom is guaranteed, that I feel protected and safe, after having been rescued from the hands of the FARC who held me, hostage for more than six years, also a terrorist group from Colombia. This country still suffers from terrorism.
When I went to the rally on June 30, 2018, to defend the Iranian people’s freedom, I did so in solidarity with those who are experiencing human rights violations like the ones I have endured. In previous years, at the same annual gathering, my mother, my daughter, and my niece have accompanied me, always in the process of commitment and solidarity. The thought that I might be in danger by going there didn’t cross my mind, nor those who were with me that day.
The place was packed. There were thousands of people from all over the world. Committed personalities and whole families, young couples and their children, grandparents, some of Iranian origin, others not, all come to claim the freedom of the Iranian people in an atmosphere of fair, music, colorful placards, and banners for liberty.
My intervention was planned at the start of the conference, after that of Myriam Rajavi, president-elect of the Iranian Resistance (NCRI), and following other American political figures. I had prepared an intervention to pay tribute to the thirty thousand Iranians executed by Khomeini’s order in 1980 when they refused to swear allegiance to the theocratic regime that had taken hold. I also spoke about the role of women in the struggle to restore democracy in Iran, in the face of a regime that has reduced them to being non-persons, denying them civil, political, educational, and family rights. They go so far as to incite passers-by in the street to burn their faces with acid to force them to wear the veil.
I had said that I found there was something salutary about the Iranian Resistance choosing precisely one woman as its leader to defeat this misogynist regime. A woman refuses to be exploited by the power in place and who worries the Mullahs so much that they undertake a media lynching campaign against her.
When I had finished my speech and stepped down from the podium, like my predecessors, to the applause of an enthusiastic crowd, a group of assistants had formed around me to kiss me and take pictures. with me. I laughed to see the joy of young girls getting ready for selfies and children being hugged to pose for the camera. I then remembered my former political campaigns in Colombia and the pleasure that incidental contact with people gave me.
When I recall these images in my mind, cold sweat runs through my back at the thought of the carnage that could have taken place had the plot been successful.
Humans tend to imagine that in the event of such a disaster, they will be spared and, miraculously, will be among the survivors. It is a luxury that I can no longer afford. My life experience has made me realize that horror touches us all blindly. What incredible suffering for my family if I had been the victim of this bomb explosion, which was to detonate very close to where I was sitting! How horrible for my children that I survive the FARC in Colombia but that I am murdered in France by other fanatics just as cruel.
When I learned that a plot had been foiled, I stayed prostrate for several days at home, refusing to tell my people about it, under the grip of a deep unease exacerbated by the feeling of déjà vu. I came to escape it beautifully, again!
This criminal act reveals how much we need exemplary justice to guarantee that we will be able to remain free at home, that our children will have the right to say what they think without worrying about displeasing anyone, that our values , which are the base of our dignity will not be violated, even if the boots of those who claim to crush them frighten and intimidate us, and even if the power of those who attack us can corrupt the conscience, muzzle them, or even eliminate them.
The situation is serious. This tribunal has before it a much more demanding task than trying the members of a conspiracy. It is about ensuring our survival conditions as free nations in a globalized world while we want to preserve our right to generosity, openness, and hospitality.
By defending the rights of the potential victims of this thwarted terrorist action, it is the whole of humanity that demands that our justice act against the violence of terror, that which interferes in all corners of the planet and marks our time of his black imprint. From the attack on the New York Twin Towers by Al-Qaeda to the live beheadings of the desert by Daesh and the ram truck attack in Nice to the recent knife attacks in the UK, terrorism has become the evil of the century. Silent violence, the worst of all because in addition to being dehumanizing, blind, cold, cruel, it is also ready to play with everything and everyone, even going so far as to invoke God to justify itself.
I could focus on the damning facts: the use of diplomatic cover to act with impunity and across Europe; the recruitment of our nationals of Iranian origin, holders of European passports, as agents under the orders of a foreign power; the premeditation of the massacre with unlimited economic capacity, and years of elaborate upstream work to gather information, infiltrate, and plan the crime in all detail and with all calculations of space and time; the instrumentalization of the rules of the Schengen area in favor of the murderous plan; the deployment of an international strategy from the offices of Iranian ministers, etc.
I could also insist on the goal: to succeed in an attack on European territory, the spectacularity, and size of which – the intention being to inflict a maximum number of human losses – would have a double effect:
1) reducing to nothing the only opposition still organized that survives the Mollahs’ regime;
2) dividing Europeans on the supervisory responsibilities attributable to each and on the type of reprisals to be imposed. All this with the result of guaranteeing the conditions of impunity for its perpetrators.
But it is neither the overwhelming evidence nor the devastation sought by the attack that I would like to focus on, but the fact that we are still alive to demand justice. I am referring to what allows us to overcome murderous madness, not to submit, to prevail in the face of ignominy.
I was seated in the VIP section with many other dignitaries, including several dozen parliamentarians worldwide. We were all doomed to certain death because we were in the same team as Maryam Rajavi, the woman who stands up to the Khamenei regime and the main target of the attack.
If we are all still alive, despite the skill and experience of these international crime professionals whom you have the task of judging, it is thanks to anonymous men and women, of Belgian, German, and French nationality, who were responsible for ensuring the safety of women and men in their country. They are the ones who gathered and analyzed scattered information, who decoded and understood what was being concocted, and who acted intelligently to thwart the plot and put in your hands the people who were going to kill us.
By following and confronting the terrorists, these men and women had everything to lose to ensure that justice was done. Especially their lives. Their hard work, the decisions they took, their way of acting, their lucidity, the team spirit they demonstrated could only be significant because, being European, they shared collective memory, a shared history, the same values, a similar way of being in the world.
If we are alive, then it is not a coincidence, but the result of a common conscience that believes that justice is more effective than violence. This culture that has preserved us, that of “law” in the broad sense, also explains in large part why persecuted women and men around the world seek refuge in the territory of Europe, as the Iranian Resistance did.
We have now arrived at the culminating, privileged, singular moment in nations’ lives, which finally allows justice to be served. This moment of truth – that of the terrorist plot against the gathering of Free Iran in Villepinte on June 30, 2018 – is also a moment of introspection. It is, in fact, the expression of who we are and what we believe in. He speaks of our collective essence, marked by our cult for freedom because we keep in our memory that of our dead, and in our gestures those full of demands carried by the young generations of the continent.
This moment is, therefore, more than anything else, a real profession of faith in the beneficial work within human reach. Or, to put it another way, the opportunity to turn death drives into the foundations of life.
Statement made in Paris, August 22, 2020