Iran, Belgium agree to swap prisoners: Oman
Iran and Belgium have agreed to free an aid worker and a diplomat imprisoned in each other’s countries respectively, in a deal facilitated by Oman.
While Omani authorities did not release the identities of those released, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement that aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele had been freed.
Iranian state media also repeated Oman’s announcement, while Iran’s its foreign minister revealed that diplomat Assadollah Assadi had been released.
“The innocent diplomat of our country, who was illegally detained in Germany and Belgium for more than two years against international law, is now on his way back to his homeland,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter, thanking Oman for its role in securing his release.
In January, Iran sentenced Vandecasteele to a lengthy prison term and 74 lashes after convicting him of espionage in a closed-door trial. He also was fined $1 million.
Vandecasteele had worked for a number of humanitarian organisations. The Belgian government and his family had vehemently denied Iran’s claims that he was a spy.
“Olivier spent 455 days in prison in Tehran. In unbearable conditions. Innocent,” De Croo said.
“Olivier Vandecasteele’s return to Belgium is a relief. A relief for his family, friends and colleagues.”
In 2021, Belgium convicted diplomat Assadi of planning a thwarted bomb attack against an exiled Iranian opposition group in France. The courts sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Belgian intelligence identified him as an officer of Iran’s intelligence and security ministry who operated undercover at the Iranian Embassy in Austria. Iran has denied Assadi’s involvement.