Tortured Iranian dissident found guilty of trying to firebomb diplomatic car at London embassy

·3-min read

An Iranian dissident who was tortured by the regime has been found guilty of trying to firebomb a diplomatic vehicle at the country's embassy in London.

Sam Parsa, 59, was found guilty of arson with intent to endanger life on Thursday for the incident in September 2018.

The jury at the Old Bailey had previously heard how Parsa had placed a bottle containing petrol, heavy petroleum distillate and a piece of scarf in the exhaust pipe of a black BMW at the embassy building in South Kensington.

It was said to be a viable incendiary device that could have been ignited by the heat from the car exhaust, creating a "pool of fire" that may have set the vehicle alight.

Parsa then travelled to France to see relatives with a ticket he had booked the day before.

After his arrest, Parsa told police he did not want to hurt anyone and insisted that he was a proud Briton who strongly opposed Iran's leadership.

"I don't want to do any harm, I'm not a violent person, I am against the bloody regime," he said.

"My teacher is Bertrand Russell, William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill. I love this country and I am proud to be British; I call myself British, Persian British."

Later claiming he had been set up, he added: "They know I am lucky to escape, I am one of those survivors of torture.

"As soon as an Iranian goes to demonstrate against them, they are very happy to play a game for you guys and for you guys to arrest me."

Parsa, who spent more than seven years as a political prisoner in Iran before being released under an amnesty in 1988, fled to Britain two years later, setting up home in north London.

He is said to have been a member of the Iranian People's Fedaian, a Marxist opposition group, and was subjected to torture. Many of his friends, he added, had been executed.

When claiming asylum in the UK, the 59-year-old showed officials his torture scars, explaining: "On five occasions I was whipped, I went unconscious. They also hung me from my hands.

"People would come and beat me, they wanted me to confess I was a group member, they wanted other names.

"They poured boiling water on my arms and legs. On some occasions they would push my head underwater to try and make me confess."

At trial in London, prosecutor Benjamin Holt referred to evidence of Parsa's activism, which came as voice recordings speaking out against the regime.

"The prosecution say all of this is important evidence against Mr Parsa," Mr Holt said.

"It is evidence showing he has the drive, the determination, the motivation to make a statement against the Iranian regime.

"We say he has decided that by destroying or damaging a vehicle that was owned and used by the Iranian embassy with the inevitable consequence that lives would be endangered."

Parsa is now awaiting sentencing in January.