Belgium and Iran swapped prisoners

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Protesters in Brussels, Belgium hold up pictures of aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.

Oman facilitated a deal between Iran and Belgium resulting in the release of an aid worker and a diplomat who were imprisoned in each other’s countries.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian announced that Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi would return home, while Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed that aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele was en route to Belgium.

The Omani foreign ministry announced earlier that it had transported the released individuals from Brussels and Tehran to Muscat, in readiness for repatriation to their respective nations.

Oman received gratitude from Amirabdollahian for its role in securing the release of Assadi.

He tweeted that the diplomat, who had been unlawfully detained in Germany and Belgium for over two years, in violation of international law, was now en route to his home country.

In a closed-door trial, Vandecasteele was convicted of espionage and subsequently sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes by Iran in January. A fine of $1 million was also imposed upon him.

Vandecasteele had lent his expertise to several humanitarian organizations. Despite Iran’s claims that he was a spy, the Belgian government and his family vehemently denied any such allegations.

Olivier endured 455 days of imprisonment in Tehran. The conditions were unbearable. De Croo described the aid worker’s return to Belgium as “a relief for his family, friends, and colleagues,” stating that “Innocent” has finally made it back home.

Belgium convicted Assadi in 2021 for planning a bomb attack against an exiled Iranian opposition group in France, which was ultimately thwarted. He received a 20-year prison sentence from the courts.

He was identified by Belgian intelligence as an officer of Iran’s intelligence and security ministry who worked undercover at the Iranian Embassy in Austria. Assadi’s involvement has been denied by Iran.

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