BRUSSELS (NBC News) — Belgian authorities formally arrested a married couple on Monday and accused them of preparing a bomb attack in France during a packed rally of an Iranian opposition group last weekend.
The rally was being hosted by Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, in the French town of Villepinte, which is close to Paris and included a number of American speakers including Rudy Giuliani.
The federal prosecutor’s office said Monday that the two, Belgian citizens of Iranian heritage in their 30s, were charged with "attempt at terrorist murder and preparing a terrorist crime" against the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.
The office said investigators who detained the couple and searched their car found more than a pound of TATP explosives and a detonator.
After their detention, police raided five homes over the weekend but did not elaborate on the results.
The federal prosecutor’s office said that as well as the Belgian security services, the DGSI French internal intelligence service and German judicial authorities were instrumental "in avoiding a terror attack on French soil."
Prosecutors said three suspected accomplices were detained in France. An Iranian diplomat based in Vienna was detained in Germany.
As well as Iranian exiles, President Donald Trump’s lawyer was among the American speakers at the event, which took place in a huge, packed hall in an exhibition center north of Paris.
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, widely known as MEK, is an exiled Iranian opposition group detested by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which refers to them as "hypocrites." The formerly armed group had been on the EU and U.S. terrorism lists before being delisted from both.
This year’s rally, called "Free Iran 2018 — The Alternative" — sought to plant the seeds for regime change in Iran.
Trump’s recent appointment of John Bolton, who has addressed a MEK rally in the past, as his national security adviser and the president’s choice of Giuliani, a regular MEK headliner, as his lead lawyer are seen as ways to potentially strengthen the group’s bid for U.S. backing.