Iran releases Belgian aid worker in prisoner swap – POLITICO

Iran has released Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian aid worker who has been detained in Iran for more than a year, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement on Friday.

“Olivier Vandecasteele is on his way to Belgium,” said De Croo. “If all goes as planned, he will be with us tonight.”

A Belgian official confirmed to POLITICO that an individual was on his way to Iran as part of a prisoner exchange.

According to the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, the individual in question is an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Antwerp court in 2021 for plotting a bomb attack against a rally organized by Iranian dissidents near Paris.

Iran’s opposition said the prisoner swap “encourages terrorism and betrays human rights by violating the Constitutional Court’s ruling.”

Belgium and Iran have been negotiating for months over a controversial bilateral treaty that would allow Iranians convicted in Belgium to serve their sentences in Iran, and vice versa.

The deal was approved by Belgium’s highest court in March, paving the way for the prisoner swap.

Vandecasteele was sentenced to 40 years in prison on four different counts: spying on Iran, cooperating with the United States against Iran, currency smuggling, and money laundering.

The Belgian government said the charges were “fabricated” and was push for the release of Vandecasteele.

This is a developing story.


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