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Iran frees Belgian activist in swap for diplomat behind terror plot

Iran frees Belgian activist in swap for diplomat behind terror plot
posted onMay 27, 2023

Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who was detained for almost 15 months in Iran, landed in Belgium late Friday, after being freed in a prisoner exchange.

The 42-year-old Belgian was greeted by his parents, sister and other family members on the tarmac of the Melsbroek military base near Brussels following his release on Fridayaccording to images broadcast on television.

Earlier Friday, Iran freed Vandecasteele in a prisoner exchange for an Iranian diplomat convicted of terrorism.

Iran announced that the freed Iranian is diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was jailed in Belgium over a 2018 plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally outside Paris.

The Belgian aid worker was sentenced in January to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes for “espionage,” Tehran’s judiciary said at the time.

“Olivier spent 455 days in prison in Tehran in unbearable conditions. Innocent,” Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said, following news of his release.

“For me, the choice has always been clear. Olivier’s life has always come first. It’s a responsibility that I take upon myself, that I accept. In Belgium, we do not abandon anyone,” he added, without mentioning the prisoner swap.

Last year, Belgium and Iran signed a treaty to enable prisoner swaps.

International media and human rights organizations documented dual nationals enduring arbitrary and prolonged detention in Iran on politically motivated charges.